Ever since “The Hangover” was a huge hit, movie studios have tried to copy the formula of that film. You throw a group of friends together and they go to fun city or event and you watch the havoc take place. It has to be raunchy and stretch the boundaries of good taste. Many films have come after and attempted to duplicate this, but have failed. Most focus on the raunch that they forget about the story and the heart. GIRLS TRIP though hits on all counts. It is a gloriously raunchy good time for four long time friends trying to reconnect and capture their wild past. This could have gone wrong in several areas, but it never did go off the tracks. Raunch plus heart plus fun plus friendship equals a good time at the movies.
People will be able to relate to GIRLS TRIP. You have friends from high school or college and you slowly drift away from them. Work and family get in the way. You just lose touch with your crew. This movie perfectly captures this feeling.
Regina Hall is the lead in this production. She plays Ryan Pierce, a best-selling author and lifestyle guru. She is married to a former NFL star named Stewart (Mike Colter). They form a dynamic team that people can’t get enough of. The couple is on the verge of something bigger.
Ryan has a group of friends that call themselves the Flossy Posse. You have Sasha Franklin (Queen Latifah), a journalist who becomes a gossip columnist. She’s living beyond her means and needs a big break to stay afloat. Dina (Tiffany Haddish) is the wild one of the bunch. She is up for anything, says anything on her mind and is a bit crazy. Then there is Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith). She was wild in college, but has settled down over the years. She works as a nurse, lives with her mother and takes care of her two kids. Life has mellowed her rough edges.
These four haven’t gotten together much in the last five years. That will change. Ryan is scheduled to be a keynote speaker at the Essence Music Festival. This event is a celebration of African-American culture and music. There are concerts, booths and seminars. It is held every year in New Orleans. Ryan invites her three friends to enjoy the VIP treatment and try to reconnect.
The film does not shy away from the extreme stuff just because it has women at the center instead of men. There are plenty of set pieces that will have your jaw drop because of the boldness of it all. You will never look the same at zip lining after witnessing one scene. I don’t get shocked much, but even I was taken aback by the sheer audacity of that one. I normally don’t like scenes where characters get high and act stupid. It’s been done time and time again. But in GIRLS TRIP it actually works. There is inventiveness to it and sheer silliness that win the day. I applaud the writers for pulling this off.
As the women arrive in New Orleans, photos surface of Stewart cheating with another woman. The movie does well in navigating this plot as Ryan tries to figure out whether to protect her brand or protect her dignity. It’s not as easy as you think it would be. Director Malcolm D. Lee did a very wise move in filming in New Orleans at the actual Essence Music Festival. We get to see great music performances with the characters interacting with real folks. It is a delicate balance to not make it seem cheesy.
There is real authenticity to GIRLS TRIP. Not just with the setting, but with the four lead actresses. They have amazing chemistry and you can buy completely that they are best friends. This is a true breakout role for Hadish. Dina is a force of nature. I would think in real life Dina would be hard to be around consistently. Her persona is always at 11 and you could get worn down by that. But you need friends like that though. She will always be behind you no matter and have your back whatever the circumstances. Lisa as portrayed by Smith may have the biggest arc to her character. She’s closed off at the start of the movie. But by the end her sexuality and fierceness comes to the forefront. It shows a nice range by Smith. Hall is perfect as Ryan. She has a dignity to her that you can see how many women would follow. Latifah is solid as usual. You never have to worry about her.
There is great supporting work from Kate Walsh who plays Ryan’s agent who tries to be a bit too hip for her own good. It’s funny stuff. Mike Colter is an unsung player in portraying this cheater. You can at times buy into his excuses and his reasoning. There is nuisance to him that he isn’t just a hissable villain.
GIRLS TRIP is funny life affirming film that is well acted and set perfectly in New Orleans. There are few speeches that really hit the point as well as one near the end of the movie. Go see this.
Video: New Orleans comes alive on screen. You can feel the energy bursting through the screen. There is just an excitement that few cities could match and why it was so crucial to shoot there.
Audio: The sound was generally good. That is tough to pull off with the music and with characters trying to speak with a noisy background.
Deleted Scenes (10:12): There are 7 scenes in all. You can watch with commentary from Director Malcolm D. Lee. There are more scenes with Ryan and Stewart as they navigate their relationship. There are a couple more scenes where Queen Latifah takes center stage. You have Ryan interacting with her fans and a scene which deals with the aftermath of the fight with the friends. None of the scenes would have made a real difference in the final product and were wisely cut.
Outtakes (25:17): This is the usual flubbed lines, improvisations and different takes on scenes.
Planning the Trip (10:12): The cast and crew discuss the story, the casting, the actors and the director.
Outrageous Moments (5:35): This is exactly how it sounds. The cast and crew talk about the more memorable scenes.
The essence of NOLA (5:45): The city of New Orleans and the Essence Music Festival are discussed.
Extended Performance of “Because of You” by Ne-Yo (2:58)
Feature Commentary with Director Malcolm D Lee: The director touches on casting, New Orleans, the story and various scenes. He goes in detail on how he pulled off some scenes.