Tuesday, August 1, 2017

When In N'Awlins, Let Yourself Go! Go! Go! Go!

Regina Hall as Ryan, Jada Pinkett Smith as Lisa, Queen Latifah as Sasha and Tiffany Haddish as Dina in Malcolm D. Lee's comedy-drama "Girls Trip".
  Universal Pictures

Omar P.L. Moore/        Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW                                           
Tuesday, August 1, 2017

"Girls Trip" is the epitome of fun.  "Reality" TV shows can't touch this wild, outrageous weekend adventure comedy-drama by Malcolm D. Lee.  Four best-friends who haven't seen each other since 2012 laugh, live and love it up in New Orleans during the Essence Festival and turn The Big Easy upside down.  Their pure joy and excitement, crudeness and crass behavior is unapologetic, contagious and highly enjoyable.

Flavored with a great soundtrack, "Girls Trip" sees Sasha (Queen Latifah), Dina (Tiffany Haddish, scene-stealer extraordinaire), Ryan (Regina Hall) and Lisa (Jada Pinkett-Smith) take Cajun Country by storm but with history and entanglements.  Ryan and her husband Stewart (Mike Colter) look for a business deal despite their own personal challenges, while Sasha's financial situation as a gossip web site proprietor puts her on a tightrope. 

Mr. Lee's atmosphere is bright, sunny and replete with the free-wheeling humor and improvisation that takes "Girls Trip" to all the places that it should go.  We aren't just watching four women have a great time -- we are having a great time with them.  I don't know when the last time was I had the kind of fun at the movies that I had with "Girls Trip".  The zeal and color of "Girls Trip" is endless, as is the gut-busting humor.  There are never dull moments in this wacky weekend of frolic, lewdness and raunchy romping.

Dina, a ringleader in chaos and calamity, is out there.  Anything that comes to mind -- anything you're thinking, anything at all -- she will say it.  Loudly and clearly.  Dina is a presence.  A monumental presence.  Ms. Haddish, charismatic, quick-witted and umbridled, is a force of nature.  Her physical comedy is priceless.  She injects "Girls Trip" with the energy, vitality and endless laughter the film's trailer promises.  This volcanic fervor rubs off on Ms. Pinkett Smith, who gets in on the act as Lisa, a straitlaced woman who lets loose literally and figuratively.  The physical comedy is what makes "Girls Trip" work.

Class and race are woven into Mr. Lee's film.  The class clash rudely invades the realities of the relationships of this quartet, with Ryan being a cut above financially more so than any of her friends.  The film tackles the issues of class discreetly but with the eyepopping attire and glamor you'd be forgiven for thinking that money is no object.  Ryan warns her white business manager Elizabeth (Kate Walsh) about appropriating speech she believes Black women use in colloquy. 

Elizabeth is a parody of some managers, and Ms. Walsh plays to type to a T.  And I couldn't help noticing the darker-complexioned Simone (Deborah Ayorinde) as a rival to the lighter-complected Ryan.  In the few scenes she has, Ms. Ayorinde's Simone is a sullen presence, and I don't know whether Mr. Lee was making any kind of statement beyond the casting, regardless of the character's own motives in the script written by Kenya Barris and Tracy Oliver.  I could have done without the N-word anywhere in this film, and thankfully it isn't uttered in the second hour of a film that flies by.

One of the many things I admire about "Girls Trip" is its mix of farce and peace.  Though most of the first hour is high-octane things slow to a truthful gateway, one which I found moving.  The film isn't entirely predictable but there's a great message that will move many.  I didn't expect to be caught up in the moment but you can't watch the exhilarating "Girls Trip" and not be.  (By the way, Larenz Tate, who seems not to have aged since "Menace II Society" almost 25 years ago, plays a nice supplemental role as Julian, a musician and long-time friend of one of the women.)

It's great to see Black women on the big screen be something other than a serious, buttoned-down entity or a strong, resolute person who has to be everything for everyone else except for herself.  Sure, there's been a fair share of butt-shaking roles in Hollywood, but "Girls Trip" gives these women full control of what they do, and on their own terms.  Mr. Lee sensitively acknowledges this.  Most of the time simply steps back, trains the cameras, and these unforgettable women let fly, resplendently. 

Also with: Lara Grice, Robert Miano -- and a whole host of cameos from people you will recognize almost instantly.

"Girls Trip" is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America crude and sexual content throughout, pervasive language, brief graphic nudity, and drug material.  The film's running time is two hours and two minutes.

COPYRIGHT 2017.  POPCORNREEL.COM.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.                Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW