Adam Keleman is a writer and director based in Los Angeles. His work has shown at the SXSW Film Festival, BFI London Film Festival, Nashville FF, and New Orleans FF. As a film journalist and critic, he has written for SOMA Magazine, AOL Moviefone, Slant and Little Joe. Adam’s short film Long Days was a Vimeo Staff Pick and won the HammerToNail Short Film Contest. He was also awarded a Jerome Foundation production grant and Film Independent AbelCine grant for his debut feature film Easy Living, which premiered at the 2017 SXSW Film Festival and will be distributed by Gravitas Ventures in September. Adam is currently developing several projects for film and TV.
You know when you come out of a movie theater after you’ve seen a really really good movie, and your head is buzzing with some sort of cosmic elation? It’s that tingling feeling that you never want to let go of. It usually means your brain has been turned upside down, shaken and stirred. (I’m not sure if that’s the clinical diagnosis, but it certainly feels that way.) Some would say it’s the equivalent to a great meal or good sex. Last year, I fell for Toni Erdmann and Elle. In 2017, I got fucked hard by Girls Trip.
And I can tell you, I would normally be the first one to dismiss a movie like this. On paper, it reads like the 10th facsimile of Bridesmaids or The Hangover, but this is the real deal. My friends at this point are still scratching their heads whenever I bring it up — mind you most of them haven’t seen the glory that is Tiffany Haddish in the role of Dina! — but I can tell you without a doubt in my mind that Girls Trip is the best movie of the year. I was initially going to qualify this statement a little differently and say it was the best moviegoing experience of the year. But fuck it, this is the truth, and I dare you to see it now and prove me wrong. I don’t often gush about movies — ask any of my friends. I’m the discerning one in the corner, and I’ll be the first to pick something apart. Girls Trip isn’t perfect, either: there are some trite plot devices, an ending that is too easily resolved/earned, and some disappointing girl-vs.-girl gender politics (though its absurd handling is more silly than off-putting).
And then there’s Tiffany Haddish. I had never heard of her before. Apparently, she’s been around on the comedy scene for ages. Well, she hit me like a sledgehammer in this movie. Haddish might be the most highly skilled physical comedy actor on the planet right now. I was trying to think of comparisons to other physical comedians, like Charlie Chaplin or Jim Carrey or Melissa McCarthy. She might be better than all of them. There are things she does in this movie that I’ve never seen on screen before. Obviously, the grapefruit scene and Bourbon Street zip-line craziness come to mind, but the ways she moves her body and contorts her face, it’s on a whole other level. And she has so many good lines. I can’t remember them all because there are so many of them. But if I had to pick one, it would be, “A ghost tried to fuck me.” That’s just a taste of the pure no-holds-barred hilarity of Haddish. She is committed at any cost to getting a laugh.
My first introduction to Haddish was the Jimmy Kimmel interview she did on the press tour for Girls Trip. I fell in love with her after watching that, and the thing that did it was this very candid retelling of the swamp tour she took Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith on. If you haven’t already, stop what you’re doing and watch it right now. This story is BONKERS. I’ve seen this clip 20 times now, and I still find it funny.
There’s some Oscar buzz for Haddish, and I fully support this. And I’m certainly not alone, as noted pop-culture satirist and comedian John Early is going all in for Haddish.
(A side note: I’ve since discovered that Tiffany went to my high school in the San Fernando Valley in the late ‘90s. She was in my sister’s grade, four years above me, and was our high school team mascot. I feel a sort of affinity with her now.)
Beyond the contributions of the divine Ms. Haddish, Girls Trip has many other freewheeling virtues. From the rank motel scene to the absinthe-induced hallucination at the club (and I cannot leave out the impromptu dance number!), the film has so many unexpected, wild moments. Until the ending, I never once could tell where the film was headed. Also, the whole cast is top-notch: Regina Hall, Queen Latifah and Jada Pinkett Smith are all kinds of amazing. There’s a soulfulness to all their characters that was genuinely surprising and moving. Plus, Kate Walsh (doing her best Kristen Wiig impression) was a hoot.
And, to be clear, I’m not grading on some weird, biased pop-culture curve here. I do believe we are at a place in time where we’re losing sight of what makes films valuable. Movies should be experiential and unpredictable and leave a burned-in impression. I can forgive the conventional trappings of Girls Trip because its off-the-rails, go-for-broke comedy is unforgettable, and at times otherworldly (Haddish literally blasts off into space at one point). Also, I don’t believe in a good-versus-bad ratings system. My French New Wave college professor Jean-Pierre Gorin (not a day went by when he did not mention that he’s BFFs with Godard and Scorsese) would say, “Films should be judged as memorable or not memorable; good versus bad means nothing.” Girls Trip was the most surprising, raucous, impressionable movie I’ve seen all year, and I even went a second time to make sure the first time wasn’t just a one-off fluke. It wasn’t. It was still a blast and a half.
I haven’t even mentioned how when I saw Girls Trip nearly every single member of the audience was standing up and cheering in the aisles throughout the whole movie. We all felt this communal euphoria, and it’s a high I still haven’t come down from to this day.