“Girls Trip” / Screencap courtesy YouTube
“Girls Trip” / Screencap courtesy YouTube

Writing about “Girls Trip” is really writing about Tiffany Haddish in “Girls Trip.” And writing about Tiffany Haddish in “Girls Trip” is really writing about a kind of black woman freedom not often shown in a major film.

The movie also stars Queen Latifah, Regina Hall, and Baltimore native Jada Pinkett Smith as a group of college bffs who, after living out my own Cross-Colors-Freaknik-A-Different-World-early-’90s fantasies (I was too young to really rock an asymmetrical haircut and hit a mean running man like I would have wanted), have drifted apart. They are making up for lost time at Essence Fest, a yearly gathering in New Orleans organized by Essence Magazine, which turns the city into a black woman Mecca (New Orleans is, conveniently, one of the blackest and booziest places on earth).

“Girls Trip” was released in July of last year, and made an estimated $100.1 million. Black women, especially, flocked to the film in huge groups. I saw it in White Marsh by myself during some much needed me-time and even though I was by myself, my mid-afternoon screening felt more like a bachelorette party.

The film, ostensibly about Regina Hall’s dissipating marriage to a trifling husband, is a full-out, fun raunch-fest with Haddish’s character, Dina, at the center of it all—all id and impulse. For me, it was a breath of fresh air.

“That’s some white boy shit right there,” Latifah’s character Sasha mutters to herself as she walks past some men drunkenly zip-gliding from one New Orleans building to another. But it’s not. Turns out the black girls could do it too, and make it grosser (pro-tip: pee before you get in one of those things).

When we meet Haddish’s character Dina, the other women in the film are sitting in the waiting room at a clinic, solemn and concerned. Lisa, the party girl turned repressed mom, reassures the others in a hushed tone. “We’ve been through this before,” she says.

Dina comes crashing in, breaking the silence.

“It’s chlamydia, ya’ll” she exclaims. “That shit you can cure! Ayyye!”

Dina stays drunk, she loves sex, she fights. She’s the kind of woman who in, say, a Tyler Perry film, would be chastened by her sinful ways, saved, and engaged to an uptight light-skinned guy by the end of the film.

Here, though, Dina is thoroughly herself in a way that none of the other characters are—not delusional media it-girl Ryan, not uptight Lisa, not grudge-holding Sasha. It’s Dina who finally gets sick of their phony shit, and Dina who calls on them to get it together. “I love you, but I hate you bitches,” she yells after everything comes to a head.

It’s not just the raunchiness. The movie feels genuine in the way it shows us. When the women first get to Essence Fest, groups of regular, everyday black women mill about, laughing, drinking, having fun. The film shows the main characters smoking weed, tying up their hair at night, drinking a lot (hand grenades, shots, even an unfortunate run-in with drinks spiked with absinthe)—real things that black women do.

And in the end, Ryan sums up the value of the friendship, and the value of the film too.

“No matter who else is in the picture, my girls are my constant,” she says. “They give me permission to be who I am, and I am going to be me. We’re going to be us: loving, laughing, worthy, magical us.”

Yeah, OK. It’s corny. But it’s true too.

Girls Trip” is out on DVD/Blu-Ray and available for streaming on Amazon, iTunes, and more.

Lisa Snowden is Editor-in-Chief and cofounder of Baltimore Beat. Previously, she was an editor at Baltimore City Paper, Baltimore Sun, and The Real News Network. Her work has also appeared in Essence,...

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