A new film starring Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah, Regina Hall, and newcomer Tiffany Haddish is killing it at the box office and getting critical acclaim to boot. There haven’t been many R-rated comedies starring black female leads, in part because some in Hollywood believe that is not a path towards big financial wins. Girls Trip is defying those expectations and is hopefully teaching the Hollywood execs a lesson in the process. The movie is about a girls weekend between college friends. The women once called themselves the “Flossy Posse,” and they are all now at very different places in their lives. They travel to New Orleans for a festival and end up having quite a night on the town, one that is at times raunchy, at times touching, and always hilarious. Breakout-star Tiffany Haddish’s Dina is particularly fun to watch. Vulture compared her comedic stylings to SNL‘s Kate McKinnon.
In addition to the quartet of talented actresses who make the film outrageously funny, a lot of credit is due to the black women writers, Black-ish creator Kenya Barris and Tracy Oliver. As director Malcolm D. Lee puts it, “black girl magic is real.” As director, he tried to let it flourish. He says this helped the film be funny but also authentic and empowering. During its opening weekend, Girls Trip took in $31.2 million, making it instantly profitable, since the film was made with only $20 million. This made the film quite a bit more successful than other comedies this summer, including The House with Amy Poehler and Will Ferrell and Rough Night with Scarlett Johansson and Kate McKinnon.
Jada Pinkett Smith believes the film’s success is due to its universality. “One woman is every woman and the themes in the film are universal, even though we could be different ages and experience different things,” she says. Indeed, the film has been a success across the lines of race, age, and gender. This film isn’t unique just for being a successful comedy led by black women; it’s also unique for being a successful film about empowered black women, period. While the recent film Hidden Figures was a huge critical and box office success, the last time Hollywood put out a film with four black women leads at all was two decades ago, with 1995’s Waiting to Exhale. Representation matters and black women deserve better. For that matter, all minorities deserve better representation in film. This movie has shown that it can be a smart business move as well. The question is, will Hollywood pay attention?