Best friends Ryan Pierce (Regina Hall), Sasha Franklin (Queen Latifah), Lisa Cooper (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Dina (Tiffany Haddish) AKA The Flossy Posse are in for an eventful weekend when they travel to New Orleans in “The Pelican State” of Louisiana for the yearly Essence Festival where black people across American congregate to celebrate their blackness and black culture. They’ve not seen each other in years and along the way they remember why they became friends in the first place. All of this is done through dancing, and ill-advised activities like: drinking, brawling and romancing to make those twenty-somethings’ nights out look like a walk in the park.
“My heart is so full of joy for these women right here … make sure that Lisa don’t get an STD … because we’re going to get messed up and let me get pregnant by somebody rich, that’s all I ask. Amen” prays Dina (Haddish). She’s a woman with an agenda, a plan to get white girl-wasted and there’s nobody who can stop her. She’s a bad influence on the group, but the rest have their moments of being less than savoury in the “adulting department”. Whilst all the cast have their moments of awesomeness, it’s Tiffany Haddish who steals the film with some of the best one liners, some of the best zingers and comedic timing I’ve seen in a movie in a long while indeed.
Following a push in the direction of great representation in pop culture for ethnic minorities, Girls Trip is a film that shows black people as the majority and Caucasians as the comedic relief (despite it being a comedy film). Normally, black characters are used as the comedic relief in a lot of Hollywood movies. This film appropriates cultural stereotypes, that’s what they are. Stereotypes. We would have all met someone that embodied at least one member of the Flossy Posse at some point, including the loud and unfiltered Dina who stole the film. Nonetheless, it’s because of these stereotypes that I found myself recalling these people from prior experiences in my own life.
I did find it odd that Dina wasn’t even given a last name. And despite stealing the film, she did exhibit many of those negative stereotypes. E.g. many sexual partners, sexual transmitted diseases, loud and short-tempered. Yet, she’s fiercely loyal and would do anything to protect her friends as depicted in her run-in with Ryan’s scumbag husband Stewart, played by Luke Cage’s Mike Colter. Though, it has to be admitted or entertained that these negative traits in movies continue to hurt the black community’s role in society. And the negative images continue to do battle with black society’s efforts to disprove these stereotypes, as black people are more than that.
This film also co-starred Mike Colter (Luke Cage) as Stewart Pierce, Ryan’s husband. Colter gives a good performance but his character is much to be desired. But his failures as a husband, but more so as human being allows Ryan to find herself as a black woman who doesn’t need a man to have a career in her own right. She’s more than her relationship, and there is no shame in admitting that you deserve more from life. And this philosophical discussion is more inspiring than any of her many books, talk shows etc. To me, as a man, I found it uplifting that a person as successful as her could cast aside her career for her own personal well-being and happiness.
I feel for these things alone, that everyone would greatly benefit from this movie. It shows the struggle of trying to leave a manipulative partner and a toxic relationship. But also having the proper support network can help making scenarios like that a little easier to bear. Seriousness aside, the film is filled with barrels of laughs including many penis jokes, an incident on a zip-wire and two really comical scenes that involved a grapefruit. The film is well-cast, well-written, and well-directed. I also enjoyed the soundtrack and this film is strictly not for children and I’d even say some bits would be awkward for parents to watch with their fifteen / sixteen year-old, teenage kids.
You find often that black comedies starring black people don’t empower black people. They use stereotypes for comedic effect. Girls Trip uses these stereotypes to be contrast against the more positive traits that black people possess, as in we can be just as productive as white people or Asians people and others. I think it was imperative that this film focused on black empowerment, as it seems to be a recurring theme in society today as well. Ryan being invited to the convention to speak is just one of many symbols of black success in this movie, which also included P Diddy and NeYo performing. What we see isn’t only a fictitious success (Ryan), but very real ones as well.
Elizabeth Davelli played by Kate Walsh (13 Reasons Why), was an important tool in the film too. In the start of the film, Ryan (Hall) tells Elizabeth to refrain from using black terminology or phrases. “…please refrain from saying things like “preach” … or any other colloquialism that you may have looked up on a urban dictionary” says Ryan. Essence is Ryan’s space, a black convention for black people. And I understand how matters of race, appropriation and otherness can be hard to discuss with others. Writers Tracy Oliver, Kenya Barris (Black-ish) and Erica Rivinoja articulate this well in the screenplay, in a way that was both meaningful yet with an excellent good bedside manner too.
With both comedy and drama, this film is really worth a watch. It’s not necessary to watch it at the cinema, but if you can afford it I’d certainly implore that you support the film. With excellent performances all round and thought-provoking messages about race and harmony with self, Girls Trip is one of the best films of the year so far.