“I control my destiny… if I will it, I can have it all” says Ryan, a successful writer and motivational speaker who is about to enter the big league (think Oprah crossed with Martha Stewart) with her new book You Can Have It All.
Ryan and her footballer husband are turning themselves into a mega-brand. Which leaves her with less and less wriggle room as it starts to become clear that their definitions of “having it all” are rather different, with his including sleeping with an Instagram model called Simone.
The basic plot for Girls Trip is familiar – four best friends from college who’ve drifted apart go away together and rediscover their friendship, while negotiating faultlines in their relationships with each other and with other people.
What makes it unusual is that it’s about four successful black women, visiting a black music festival (Essence in New Orleans).
And the sparkling and heartfelt performances from the four leads, plus the sheer boisterousness of the script, makes it a proper laugh-out-loud watch.
There is plenty more about Girls Trip that’s refreshing, including but not limited to grapefruits. The actresses are almost all playing their age or slightly younger (having graduated from college in 1995). And all the nudity is male – one elderly willy flashed at them through a window, and one certainly not elderly willy encased in two – yes two – grapefruit. (If you don’t know about grapefruit then you really need to update your bj technique.)
Ryan (Regina Hall), offered a hugely prestigious gig as Essence keynote speaker, decides this is the ideal opportunity for her Flossy Posse – who have barely seen each other for five years – to meet up for a riotous weekend.
The Flossy Posse are an interesting group, though like many longterm friends they’re reaching those crossroads in life that force them to question whether nostalgia is keeping them together, or they simply need a chance to reconnect. Sasha (Queen Latifah), a once-serious journalist, is now the owner of paparazzi-friendly blog Sasha’s Secrets. She’s also broke, and there’s some bad blood between her and Ryan going back years.
Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith) is a nurse and a single mom. She and her children live with her own mother, and Lisa has rather lost her zing. She hasn’t had sex since her divorce, and her first night outfit on their trip away would be turned down by the National Association Of Frumps (association mascot – Emily Blunt’s cardigan from Girl On A Train).
Dina (Tiffany Haddish) has just lost her job but is planning on going in to work as usual on Tuesday morning anyway. Loud, sexy, funny and forthright, she always has her friends’ backs. She’s also prone to occasional outbreaks of violence but only towards people we don’t like.
Outside of the posse, but also in New Orleans, is Liz (Kate Walsh), Ryan’s agent. She’s a white woman who even after a polite but clear warning from her client to stop using phrases she’s read in the Urban Dictionary, cannot stop littering her conversations with Ryan with Preach! Queen! and Bye girl!
There’s lots of female bonding and lots of fun; the women who pray together, slay together. The jokes are fabulous and rude, and I learned a lot, particularly about grapefruits. And as a mum whose nightmare after having two children (including one really enormous one with a cannonball for a head) is the idea of getting stuck on a zipwire when needing a wee, I now know never to go on a zipwire when needing a wee.
There are some good set pieces: the zipwee; a dance off in a club between the Flossy Posse and Simone and her friends; and Dina’s demonstration of the grapefruit bj technique (yes I know I keep going on about it) which shows it’s possible to eat healthily at all times.
Unsurprisingly it all ends well. Karma is proved to exist (if only!), and Lisa gets some great sex (“you said you were a nurse! What happened to a normal blow job!” shrieks her toyboy lover, he of the affore-mentioned citrus-garlanded penis).
Dina is over the top but that doesn’t make her a caricature. Most of us have a friend like Dina – some of us are Dinas – often underestimated, she doesn’t care what other people think and always supports her friends. Sasha’s gossip blog creates conflict with the rest of the posse, though it’s also an antidote to the extreme brand management that agents like Liz, selling us the fake lives of their clients, indulge in.
I wouldn’t class Ryan’s claims to be able to have it all as hubris, especially when you consider how quickly the media and society in general will try to bring down any woman (particularly a black woman) deemed to be getting too big for her boots. Ryan’s concern that she give women hope about what they are entitled to in life is genuine and touching.
There’s a slightly wrong note at the end though, when claims to no longer be afraid of being alone result in being anything but. And I felt Lisa was the bravest – she has the least glamorous job, and has started life again as a single parent, even though she was terrified.
The performances are terrific, and though Haddish could have ended up centre stage simply because of Dina’s enormous personality and inability not to to say something that needs saying, this still feels like an ensemble piece.
It does feel slightly too long. But Girls Trip‘s exuberance, and its determined focus on the value of female friendships which don’t have to be, and in fact can never be perfect, means that the the creaks in the rather hackneyed plot don’t really matter. It’s put me right off pineapple though.
Watch the Girls Trip trailer: