Little (2019)

In my week of films directed by Black American women, there are only the rare ones which gained a cinematic release in the UK, but Little — in its own small way, because it hardly had a wide release — is one of them. I found it likeable, and it probably should have had more success than it did, but it’s the kind of thing that should do well on home streaming, I imagine.

This is by no means a perfect movie; most notably, there’s a clunkiness to the inevitable moral lessons and the way things tie up, replete with all the saccharine clichés (and music cues) that go with that. But I prefer to look at this as a performer’s piece, and all three of the leads are excellent, not least Issa Rae as Jordan’s “assistant”. She’s not quite at the Tiffany Haddish-in-Girls Trip level of stealing-the-movie, but she’s not far off, and manages to even soften and subtly undercut some of those TV movie family-bonding moments with a well-chosen reaction. The story itself takes us back to those heady 80s days of the ‘body swap’ comedy, and the set-up is as perfunctory as it ever was, but along the way there are some genuinely funny jokes, some sharp satire, especially at the expense of white techbros, and a few moments of genuine horror when these dudes try to touch one of our heroine’s hair. So, on the whole I’m willing to be generous to this: it does what you expect it to do, and it does so with three charismatic performances.

Little film posterCREDITS
Director Tina Gordon; Writers Tracy Oliver and Gordon; Cinematographer Greg Gardiner; Starring Regina Hall, Marsai Martin, Issa Rae; Length 109 minutes.
Seen at Odeon Holloway, London, Friday 12 April 2019.

Girls Trip (2017)

At some level this is a black women’s twist on a gross-out comedy, which is not traditionally a genre I’ve liked, and yet… It may be too long (at 122 minutes, a good half-hour could easily have been excised), it may be quite mean about celebrity gossip journalists and women posing for selfies on Instagram (I felt like something personal was going on there), it may wrap things up with an excess of saccharine (though admirably focused on women’s friendship with one another rather than on men), but it really is very funny. At times it’s exceptionally funny, especially Tiffany Haddish as Dina, a performer I wasn’t aware of before, but whom I now expect to be in everything, and deservedly so (the scene where she imagines her revenge on a cheating man is satisfying in so many ways). It also features quite the most unexpected male nudity.

It feels like Bridesmaids was in the writers’ minds as a touchstone (not least because they have an actor, Kate Walsh, apparently doing her best to imitate Kristen Wiig), but it also has the brio of Magic Mike XXL in both its setting in the American south (here New Orleans), and its single-minded focus on the buddies-on-a-trip narrative (the presence of Jada Pinkett Smith helps in that regard; she and Queen Latifah also inspire a sweet shout-out to Set It Off, a real 90s classic of the black women buddy genre). Plus, the focus on the women means it dispenses with some of the unpleasantness that marked the women characters in the same director’s The Best Man (1999).

In all, a top comedy, which really deserves its success.

Director Malcolm D. Lee; Writers Kenya Barris and Tracy Oliver; Cinematographer Greg Gardiner; Starring Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, Tiffany Haddish; Length 122 minutes.
Seen at Odeon Holloway, London, Wednesday 2 August 2017.