Films about adult friends behaving badly aren’t exactly an endangered Hollywood genre. Rough Night, an R-rated comedy about a Miami bachelorette party gone wrong, hasn’t even been in theaters for a full month, and now, here comes Malcolm D. Lee’s Girls Trip, an R-rated comedy about a New Orleans getaway gone wrong. But although Girls Trip sticks pretty close to the well-tested formula — four friends go on a trip together, get drunk, and bond over their debauched adventures — it executes that formula with flair, delivering a delightfully outrageous comedy of female friendship.
The action takes place over a few days at the Essence Festival in New Orleans, where the author Ryan Pierce (Regina Hall) has been invited to speak. Part Oprah, part Martha Stewart, and part Sheryl Sandberg, Ryan has built an inspirational empire writing books with titles like You Can Have It All, and she’s on the verge of closing a massive merchandising deal involving both her and her retired football player husband, Stewart (Luke Cage’s Mike Colter). To celebrate, she invites her three best friends from college to join her in New Orleans, reuniting the self-appointed “Flossy Posse” for a weekend of drinking, dancing, and degeneracy.
There’s Sasha (Queen Latifah), the gossip blogger who’s traded her journalism degree for celebrity muckracking, only to find herself struggling to keep the lights on. There’s Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith), the divorced mother of two who’s abandoned her formerly wild ways. And then there’s Dina (a standout Tiffany Haddish), the hotheaded wild child who’s fiercely devoted to her friends. All of the women get their fair share of goofy physical comedy — Latifah has a particularly memorable moment involving absinthe and a lamp — but Haddish is a hilarious revelation, from cheerfully shutting down her boss as he tries to fire her for harassing a coworker to ziplining over Bourbon Street to disastrous results. Above all, she deserves some kind of award for her fully committed and outrageously raunchy performance in a scene concerning a banana and a grapefruit.
The women’s wild weekend gets complicated, however, when Sasha receives a paparazzi photo of Ryan’s husband Stewart with a predatory Instagram model, sparking drama, secrets, and jealousy. Girls Trip doesn’t always justify its two-hour-plus running time, and the overstuffed plot is at its best when it’s focusing on the relationship between the four women. There are also celebrity cameos aplenty, and with the exception of Diddy, who has a hilarious encounter with Dina, it’s mostly just onstage Essence Festival footage of stars like Ava DuVernay, Mariah Carey, and Common — all of which could’ve been cut in favor of a few more jokes.
But the jokes that are there are shocking and hysterical, and unlike some similar comedies about grownup friends, the four core characters are actually likeable. Thanks to the quartet’s breezy, believable chemistry, it’s easy to see why the Flossy Posse would actually want to spend time together — and you’ll be more than happy to spend time with them, too. B