How Girls Trip became 2017’s most unlikely awards contender

1600 1000 Liam Taft

Last week, Tiffany Haddish – the breakout star of this year’s most talked about female-led comedy, Girls Trip – was named best supporting actress by the New York Film Critics Circle.

As a comedy led by four women of colour, Girls Trip would’ve stood no chance against more ‘serious’ awards contenders of previous years. But, in 2017, this mood seems to have shifted. If this early buzz is anything to go by, Girls Trip – and Haddish in particular – might just be in with a chance of making it all the way to the Oscars.

The film centres around four 40-something friends who, after leaving college and dedicating more time to building families and careers, have drifted slowly apart. That is until Ryan – one of the friends – brings the “Flossy Posse” back together for one wild weekend. Girls Trip works very much within the tradition of films such as The Hangover that follow a group of disparate friends that relive their party days over one weekend – usually involving booze, toilet humour, and vulgar innuendos. From its synopsis, Girls Trip sounds like another rote trip down a well-worn genre path, but, despite its conventionality, it still manages to feel refreshing.

In 2016, only 29% of the top 100 films were led by a female protagonist. This year, the likes of Wonder Woman and Beauty and the Beast have proven that female-led films do have an audience – and with Girls Trip, which profited over $100m worldwide, they proved studios reluctant to distribute these films wrong. That said, the film is not only refreshing due to its diverse casting: the topics that it addresses are also rarely seen onscreen. It would be easy to criticise the film for having Ryan’s divorce as an integral plot point, but it doesn’t dominate the running time; if anything, there is more focus on building a career and, most importantly, female friendship. Yes, in a post-Bridesmaids world, alongside other works such as Trainwreck, How To Be Single, and Rough Night, seeing brash, sex-positive ladettes onscreen is hardly radical, but what elevates Girls Trip is a surprising lack of cynicism that, for the most part, manages to avoid schmaltz.

It would be an exaggeration to think that Girls Trip could take away this year’s top gongs, but a nomination for Best Picture might just be possible. After the #OscarsSoWhite scandal, last year the Academy was keen to diversify their nominations. For the first time in 10 years, more than one black actor took home an acting award, several films with non-white protagonists made the shortlist – including Hidden Figures, which was fronted by three black women working in science – and, most significantly, Moonlight beat out La La Land to take home the top award. With mounting pressure to maintain their diverse streak and Haddish cementing herself as a ‘rising star’, Girls Trip could potentially prove successful, but we can only hope that it did so on its own artistic merits. This is not a particularly political film, since racial politics and feminism are rarely directly addressed in the film, which might hurt its chances, but as its momentum picks up, there will surely be a place for Haddish in the nominations at the very least.

Awards success should not determine the success of Girls Trip, but to see a film such as this catapulted into the mainstream is hardly anything to sniff at. Regardless of how the awards season will pan out, Girls Trip has already gained warm critical praise (it has a 71 score on Metacritic) and has satisfied audiences craving to see themselves represented onscreen. With a career-defining performance by Haddish, a confident string of hilarious set pieces, a sharp script, this is a film that has real potential to become a cult classic – but whether the Academy agree is still unclear. In the meantime, however, we can find hope in the knowledge of its success. The women behind Girls Trip are helping to pave the way for more female filmmakers of colour to break through into the industry, tearing apart glass ceilings – and their livers – in the process. Never before has the road to equality been so much fun.

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