Girls Trip (2017) Movie Review

By: Jenna Zine (Four Beers) –

The film follows four lifelong friends as they reconnect during a weekend trip to New Orleans. Much revelry (and many revelations) ensues!

[Review contains spoilers.]

A Toast

No one can deny the dynamic chemistry of this cast, with Regina Hall as high-powered lifestyle author Ryan Pierce (a favorite of accomplished director Malcolm D. Lee’s), Queen Latifah as gossip blogger extraordinaire Sasha Franklin, Jada Pinkett-Smith as uptight single mother Lisa Cooper, and breakout star Tiffany Haddish as wild card Dina. The quartet formed an unshakeable bond in college as the Flossy Posse, but slowly drifted apart in their adult years as each strove to focus on their life goals. Ryan is arguably the most successful, a self-help guru who forms a partnership with her husband, ex-NFL player Stewart Pierce (Mike Colter), to help brand and promote her latest best-selling book You Can Have It All. (Spoiler alert: we quickly find out that Ryan does not have it all and is, in fact, subjugating herself for appearances in order to nab a lucrative talk show deal.) When Ryan is offered the keynote speech at the upcoming Essence Festival, she quickly makes arrangements to have her college girlfriends join her in hopes of getting their friendships back on track.

Hell yeah – fun ahead! [Photo Credit]

The movie starts off strong with a joyous vibe that made me want to drop everything and join them in New Orleans. (The city acts as the fifth character, imbuing additional levity from a place that has worked so hard to triumph over tragedy. It is especially thrilling with the prominent use of the gloriously rehabbed Superdome.) Though Ryan and Sasha are initially frosty, due to a failed business venture Ryan pulled out of, the four pals don’t take long to establish their groove and promptly get to the business of having fun.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for the comedy portion to wane and the overarching drama to take over. We find out at the top of the film that Stewart, one half of the picture-perfect media darling couple RyanandStewart, is actually having a torrid affair with an “Instagram ho” named Simone (Deborah Ayorinde). A damning picture is texted to Sasha, who’s receiving pressure from advertisers to up her site traffic, thus setting up the conundrum: does she leak the photo to save her own business and subsequently screw over her friend, or does she help bury this juicy piece of gossip? The three pals decide to alert Ryan of the affair – only to find out that she already knew, and while not thrilled, is “fine” with it because she’d rather protect her brand than her heart. However, they can’t control Simone, the Lindsay Shookus of mistresses, who refuses to play nice and go away. (We later find out Simone is pregnant and has no qualms about threatening to blow Ryan and Stewart’s lives apart.)

Bourbon Street will never be the same! [Photo Credit]

Beer Two

As mentioned, this plot point happens a scant ½ hour into a 2-hour flick, thus handing over the bulk of the screentime to the fallout of the affair. Did I mention this fails the Bechdel test, virtually right out of the gate? Not that it doesn’t come with a lot of fun, with Dina delivering a searing monologue as to what she’s going to do to Stewart when confronting him on Ryan’s behalf.

Speaking of Dina, the female leads suffer a bit from Sex & The City syndrome, with each character in the foursome locked into a designated archetype. Dina is especially unhinged as the wild child – played to the hilt by Tiffany Haddish who does for this role, and her career, what Melissa McCarthy did in Bridesmaids. Haddish provides the scene-stealing bulk of the comic relief, but Dina is so over the top that no sane adult would really want her as a best friend, despite her fierce loyalty. Unless you want a friend who secretly drugs you with absinthe she bought from a street vendor, gets into a massive brawl that results in the entire group getting kicked out of their fancy hotel, and simulates fellatio with a banana and a grapefruit in a demo over brunch that will turn you away from Eggs Benedict forever, in which case Dina will be your perfect match!

Buckle up, ladies – the real trip is about to begin! [Photo Credit]

Beer Three

Oh, the insanely fabulous trip the absinthe provides though! This allows the best friends to truly cut loose, with the gals straight up hallucinating in a nightclub, each left to their own drunken euphoria as all hell breaks loose. Dina thinks she’s floating as she reaches for imaginary stars, Lisa thinks she sees her lover but is really tonguing a Jumbotron, and Sasha makes out with a lamp that she thinks is a handsome man hitting on her. Meanwhile, Ryan is in a meeting with her agent (Kate Walsh as Elizabeth Davelli, who also accidentally partakes in the absinthe cocktail), husband Stewart, and a powerful television exec who has the ability to make all of Ryan and Stewart’s big time dreams come true.

For once, uber-professional Ryan is drunk enough not to give a damn and wanders off with her girlfriends before she can seal the talk show deal. The gals leave the club, don wigs, stumble into a bar and straight into bad girl Simone, where a dance off between the Flossy Posse and Simone’s group quickly devolves into a full blown fist fight. Whoops! Along with this raucous brawl are numerous over-the-top sight gags, such as peeing on a crowd while zip lining, that vary from funny to tiresome. Though the dialogue is strong, the gags end up feeling like a bit of a comedy cop out by the end.

We sparkle! [Photo Credit]

Beer Four

There’re a wild amount of cameos, including Diddy, Ne-Yo, Morris Chestnut, Ava Duvernay, Common, Maxwell, Bell Biv Devoe, Top Chef alum Carla Hall, and Mariah Carey to name just a few. (Luckily Mariah’s bit goes much more smoothly here than it did in The House.) There’s also a notable (and distractingly obvious) display of big name sponsors. Coca-Cola has such a massive presence, with the company’s name dangling behind nearly every shot at the Essence Festival, that it’s easy to end up feeling like the film was partially a big ad for the soda giant. It felt like everyone was scrambling to get on board with this stellar cast. Here’s an idea – put Queen Latifah, Regina, Jada, and Tiffany in high-profile projects more often and give these talented ladies some space.

There’s still so much to unpack, from a romantic subplot with Ryan and musician friend Julian (Larenz Tate), to Sasha’s secret struggles with the rapid decline of her business, to Lisa’s sexual reawakening, and more. All of it ends up feeling a bit bloated (speaking of bloated – hello, and welcome to beer four!) with a run time clocking in at a long-feeling 2-hours.

I see you, Coca-Cola! [Photo Credit]

Verdict

I wanted so badly to love this movie. Unfortunately, it’s an uneven presentation that lags. It’s definitely not for lack of trying though. The four leads are so fun, and all shine in this raunchy send up. It’s far too rare to see a female big budget comedy, much less one with wildly underrepresented African American women on the big screen. One just wishes they were given better source material to do their talents justice.

Girls Trip (2017) Drinking Game

Take a Drink: every time Tiffany delivers a hilarious one-liner.

Take a Drink: every time Lisa is told to loosen up.

Take a Drink: every time Ryan forgives an undeserving Stewart.

Do a Shot: for when she finally stands up to him!

Take a Drink: for Sasha’s morality struggle between gossip-mongering and friendship.

Take a Drink: for every crazy celebrity cameo you spot.

Do a Shot: for grapefruit. You’ll know.

 

Last Call

I must confess that I did not stay to the last frame, so I can’t confidently comment on extra scenes during/post credits as I was eager to get outside and drink beers at a baseball game. Summer was calling and I needed to answer!

About Jenna Zine

Jenna Zine is a writer, unashamed Bachelor franchise live-tweeter (with Felix Felicis at @2Girls1Recap), lapsed drummer, and occasional standup comic. She's probably somewhere right now complaining about her bangs. Find more at www.jennazine.com

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