Girls Trip follows in the footsteps of recent movies like Bridesmaids and Bad Moms, in that it follows a coterie of women ‘behaving badly.’ By ‘behaving badly’ I mean things like heavy drinking, partying, discussing crudely explicit sexual acts—anything you’d find men doing in a Todd Phillips movie, really. The most annoying thing about Bridesmaids, which was quite good, was the critical reaction to it. Too many critics parroted sentiments equal to that of Roger Ebert, who said, ‘It definitively proves that women are the equal of men in vulgarity, sexual frankness, lust, vulnerability, overdrinking and insecurity,’ which seems to me like it would be news only to people unfamiliar with Katharine Hepburn’s oeuvre, but there you go. The most annoying thing about Bad Moms was the movie itself, which seemed to think every vulgar thing its cast did was funny precisely because women were the ones doing it. ‘OMG! Can you BELIEVE we have women doing such raunchy things??’ the movie seemed to ask. Since my answer was always ‘yes,’ I can’t say it did anything for me.
And in 2017 we have Girls Trip, which without any kind of apostrophe in the title sounds like an accident waiting to happen. It follows a group of four African American women as they spend a weekend in New Orleans bonding and solidifying their sisterhood. Does it matter much that they’re black? Or women? Not to me—what matters most is that they are funny, and the movie allows them to engage in raunchy behaviour without making the audience think they’re getting away with something. Most of us already knew that women could be just as ribald, riotous, and profane as any man, so Girls Trip doesn’t feel the need to present them as a novelty. They are who they are. And who they are is is entertaining and often hilarious.
Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Tiffany Haddish, and Jada Pinkett Smith play the raunchy tetrad, and before the end of the film each will get a chance to display their comedic prowess and considerable screen presence. (My already-ripe appreciation of Jada Pinkett is detailed here.) They get to drink absinthe, make countless dick and vagina jokes, and Tiffany Haddish gets to recreate a famous internet video, which shows how a simple grapefruit can make fellatio… well, if not better, certainly louder.
All this is incredibly delightful, of course, which isn’t the same thing as saying it’s good in a particularly cinematic way. Everything is pitched at the level of a situation comedy. If you didn’t know better, the general-wash lighting, the steady rhythm of the jokes, and the attempts at drama might make you think you were watching the pilot for some weekly programme on telly. There’s notably a development with Regina Hall’s character; her husband is found to have been cheating, and, well, the resolution is more ‘A Very Special Blossom’ than ‘Little Children.’ Not that the film is without style—every interior looks like an impeccably designed set for a glamorous Vanity Fair photo shoot, with the bright costumes to match. And notice in one scene near the end, how Queen Latifah’s lipstick perfectly matches the jewels on someone else’s clothing…
But what am I saying? None of this matters. If you’re seeking out this movie you don’t want high drama, and you’d douse Sven Nykvist with some pepper spray if you saw him. Girls Trip is a communal film—you’re meant to watch it with friends in between shots of liquor. It’s supposed to be dirty and diverting, and I can only report that I laughed so often my sides hurt. If the title Good Time hadn’t already been taken, it’d fit here quite nicely.