It’s nice to see a studio comedy which is defined by its earnestness. Girls Trip engages full on with every moving cog part of its machinery. From the opening narration by a character who is unironically labelled the new Oprah, or perhaps the modern Oprah, it’s trying to be a film about connection. That old getting the band back together type deal. We’ve seen it in a lot of films recently, the old group of friends struggling to rebuild their connection over the unstable foundation of past slights, what sets Girls Trip apart is how much it cares.
Like, it’s nailed right in on these characters, and there ain’t nothing loose or shaggy or wasted about this story, there ain’t nothing that just sails on away, water under the narrative bridge. There’s not a thing in it that isn’t devoted to building these characters, defining them and their relationships to each other. The key to the whole thing being that these characters are desperately trying to connect with each other.
Maybe it’s the cool thing now, not caring, maybe we back to that nineties type scene. Look at the heroes of The World’s End or Bad Moms, two of the most immediately familiar films that come to mind when I’m thinking about midlife rambunctiousness. These films are all about a celebration of not caring, of characters who make it their goal to divorce themselves from the world around them. Sure, all these folk end up discovering that friendship was what they really needed all along, but it’s never put into a context where one actually has to work on it.
The Girls on this trip really do, so much of the joint is them navigating a shared past in order to work through their issues, and the film really believes them when they do. Like at some points the camera gets almost stagey melodramatic, I’m thinking of one scene with all these hanging drapes and a big emotional spinning camera as the score swells up all big. Cheesy though it may be the film totally earns it, because in that moment it is committing so intently to the emotional truth of the character.
Not that it ain’t a funny flick though, melodrama demands to be taken seriously but once we escape from the shifty husband subplot and back to the thing it truly cares about, the girls, it’s hilarious. Imma get to everyone else in a moment but Tiffany Haddish as Dina here is just amazing, she been about for a while taking small film roles, was great in last year’s Keanu, but holy shit she steals everything here. I guess it helps that being the designated firework of the group gives her the chance often enough but she plays it with enough irrepressible energy and enthusiasm that it sparks right up. Her character gets this capper to the film’s most dramatic moment, and it’s the best comic monologue since Andy Samburg’s apology in Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping.
That’s like a surprisingly insightful pull on my brain’s part. Cause yeah, Popstar basically the white boy equivalent of this, a warm hearted film about friendship and mutual acceptance. Girls Trip even got the songs too. So the new Oprah is Ryan Pierce (Regina Hall) who’s about to land a promotional deal alongside her husband Stuart (Mike Colter). She’s been invited to be a keynote speaker at the Essence Festival and that’s a really convenient location for all the paperwork to be signed so they’re doing that there too. To further mix business and pleasure she invites the Flossy Posse who ain’t seen each other in five years, and she’s paying for everything cos she’s the one that ended up famous.
Oh, and she’s literally written a book called ‘You Can Have it All’, tempting fate a little hard there. Aside from Dina, who’s just there to get turnt, we got Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith) as the single mum who just wanna get laid but might not be so good at it anymore (but who y’all kidding). And Sasha (Queen Latifah) a gossip columnist on the edge of losing her job who might have some juicy dirt coming her way about Ryan’s man. It’s about to pop off.
That dirt, which is so central to the plot of the thing, is so central to how the film positions relationship and work. Ryan is concerned about maintaining the value of her personal brand. Sasha got her’s to think about and the responsibility to her sources and her publisher, she acknowledges while she may be a trashy journalist she actually still is one. They’re trying to live these modern mediatised lives that come without instruction as soon as you find people calling you a ‘personality’.
And the other two out there trying to negotiate living their more socially normal lives beside these giants. Kenya Barris and Tracy Oliver’s script do perhaps the best job ever of making this shit feel real and lived in. The priorities of these essentially self-employed folks, the urgency of their mixing business and pleasure, that obsessive compulsion to be on, to be moving, to be putting in work. Like, this a film where we got a minor character coming up here who works as an instagram model, sure the script lays in with this whole set of assumptions from that, but it knows the work that these people be doing and translates it to the screen with honesty.
I guess despite it being so off the wall, that’s where the charm lies in it, it understands these people and the lives they live. Their stakes are our stakes, it’s a comedy that chooses for them to be housed in the lived experience of the black women who it chooses to throw up on the screen. They fucking funny too.
Girls Trip is currently screening in UK cinemas.