Directed by Malcolm D. Lee (2017)
by Jaime Davis, The Fixer
First of all, it's directed by Malcolm D. Lee, who made two movies I will adore for all my remaining days on this earth: The Best Man and The Best Man Holiday (three if we're counting the as-yet-unfilmed The Best Man Wedding, which is shrouded in so much secrecy that it's borderline nonexistent and if it never gets made I will weeeeeppppppp). I'm so invested in the characters in the TBM series that if you told me they weren't real I would give you the hardest death glare this Midwestern sweetheart (yes, I said it) can muster. Maybe something like this.
I dunno, whatevs. Anyway, I'm so invested in these friendships that I'm filled with so much anxiety when Lance nearly throws Harper off a hotel balcony (even though I've watched the film like over a hundred times and know that Harper doesn't die). So invested that the films make me kinda sorta root against Nia Long's character, despite having a crush on her in real life for approximately 22.367 years. So invested that I ship velvety playboy Quentin and cold as ice Shelby so freakin' hard! So invested that when THE MOST HORRIBLE THING YOU CAN DO TO A CHARACTER happened to my favorite character in the second installment, I couldn't rewatch that shit for nearly a month because duh, I WAS THAT DEVASTATED. (Seriously, like how could you do that to her??) (And also, this scene in TBM is just perfection). So Girls Trip already wins Jaime brownie points straight off the bat because of the director, and also because TBM and TBMH alum Regina Hall is one of the film's primary stars.
You may be thinking, 'hey Jaime, this review is a little biased, and, duh, you're pre-disposed to enjoy Girls Trip,' but that's not necessarily true. I assure you that I can totes remain impartial at the movies! Girls Trip just happens to be wildly fun, uplifting, a lil raunchy in places (but the good kind?), all while remaining graceful in purpose and message. And Jada Pinkett Smith is in this. Do you know I happen to love Jada Pinkett Smith?
Oh you didn't know??????????
THIS IS A JADA APPRECIATIONNNNNN POSTTTTTTTTTTT, Y'ALLLLLL
Gah, I luh her. She's just so talented...she sings, she dances, she acts! She's smart as fuck, gives a damn, cares for her hubs and her kiddies, is funny as all get-out, and yes, she happens to be incredibly, incredibly gorgeous. You seen her in Magic Mike XXL, right? Stole my damn heart right out my damn chest, I tell you. And in the opening scene of Girls Trip, as a flashback to their 90's college days, your girl Jada sports Timbs, an oversized jersey, baggy shorts, and is dancinggggg. What I just described to you is 156% Jaime Bait...if she came up to me in a bar or a grocery store or a library or a pet store dressed like that I would probably faint or mumble incoherent parts of word sentences or run away and hide. So I was already smitten with JPS, but in that opening scene of Girls Trip, I died and went to Jaime Heaven. Jaime's ghost wrote this post, btw. RIP.
So, what is Girls Trip all about, anyway? Yes, there are girls. On a trip! In New Orleans, to be exact, for ESSENCE Fest, an annual celebration of empowerment and community set to music from some really amazing performers each year. This positive backdrop is offset by the stress in each of our heroines' lives, which is why the titular Trip comes around at the perfect time. Queen Latifah, JPS, Regina Hall, and the super duper comedic talent that is Tiffany Haddish (seriously, Hollywood, put her in everything) are the Flossy Posse...a tight-knit group of pals from college who have seen each other through the good and the bad. JPS' Lisa is navigating divorce and single motherhood, Dina (Haddish) recently lost her job, while Ryan (Hall) and Sasha (Latifah) are both (not-so-secretly and secretly) treading rough waters while harboring past resentments towards each other. You think these issues will come up later in the film? If you said yes, you are CORRECT! But that's the point of Girls Trip - it's a heartfelt look at the power of connection, friendship, and support from our besties, our self-made families, despite whatever shit we all bring to the table.
It's important to note the strong writing talent behind the script: first you've got Kenya Barris, creator, writer, and exec producer on Black-ish. He shares co-writing credit with Tracy Oliver, an alum of Issa Rae's The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl. Erica Rivinoja, a veteran writer/producer on South Park and The Last Man on Earth gets a 'story by' credit here as well. Rivinoja is the genius person responsible for creating the story behind the RIDICULOUSLY DELIGHTFUL Trolls movie (don't hate, congratulate). I applaud this group for mixing so many different layers into the script while maintaining an overall upbeat vibe, even when our ladies struggle to get through the next day, event, argument, etc.
That is what I adore most about Trip: its positive message wrapped up in fun, wit, a little dirt, and a whole lot of heart. Much of the film feels immediate and real, like when the women arrive in New Orleans and party down Bourbon Street with a live band and other revelers who don't seem like your standard Central Casting extras. Filmed during ESSENCE Fest 2016, it's part live show, part narrative, as we watch our girls watch the likes of Maxwell, Common, Diddy, and Mariah Carey get down, just to name a few. There's a moment where we spy Ava DuVernay giving an interview, fellow TBM and TBMH alum Morris Chestnut greeting fans, and musician Estelle chilling at a backstage party. The audience I saw this with was LOVING every minute of it, and laughed so freakin' much I missed a lot of the secondary punchlines (and will need to see it again in the theater). But Trip is more than the glitz of the lights, the celebs on display, the party times, the raunchy comedy. This is a movie about being true to yourself, loving who you are, accepting the faults of not only yourself but those around you. It's about appreciating life's every glorious moment: the beautiful, mundane, the painful. And then riding that trip out with the ones who always got your back, who always make you laugh, who have seen you at your worst but don't turn away. Yes, it's a lighthearted dramedy/rom com but to me it feels like so much more than that...it (surprisingly and simply) reminded me that we only have this one life. And we better do it right, with the right ones.