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Ignore the critics

Published: 
Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Ignoring the few criticisms of the made-in-T&T movie Girlfriends’ Getaway, I found the movie, which premiered on September 2 at MovieTowne, really enjoyable. 

With four American actors (Terri J Vaughn, Essence Atkins, Malinda Williams and Garcelle Beauvais) in lead roles and a number of locals supporting, the movie is your typical African-American comedic flick that showcases the idiosyncracies black people are sterotyped by.

The movie’s storyline is not unlike the popular 1998 movie How Stella Got her Groove Back, where four black women, each unhappy with their lives in the US, decide to visit Jamaica for a fun getaway.

One of the criticisms of Girlfriends’ Getaway was that Trinidad is portrayed as an island where “the natives” sell marijuana on the beach and break into hotel rooms to commit robbery while guests are asleep. 

I had to remind the volunteers of such criticism that Girlfriends’ Getaway could easily have been filmed in some other place, like the Bahamas, Antigua, Jamaica or Brazil, and that it wasn’t a travelogue to promote T&T as a tourism destination. 

Another critic found there were too many Jamaican “rhythms” in the movie, a criticism film director Roger Bobb quickly put to bed by saying that the movie actually contains five soca songs and one reggae item.

I found the criticisms to be vacuous and without foundation. They reminded me of some of the criticisms levelled against Home Again, the movie that was filmed in Trinidad in 2012 about a story set in Jamaica. At the time, one critic said there was nothing to identify as Trinidad in the movie. A friend had to set this critic straight by reminding them that Star Wars wasn’t actually filmed in space.

Any movie can be criticised for one thing or another, whether justified or not; like soon-to-be-released Ridley Scott film Exodus: Gods and Kings which has been knocked for having white people cast as all the major characters with black actors getting minor roles and being cast as criminals and rogues.

I prefer to look at the positives of Girlfriends’ Getaway. Almost 80 per cent of its crew are local, some of them holding down key posts, like supervising producer Lisa Wickham; director of photography Sheldon Felix; and production designer Renee Pollonais. The movie has a local crew of 57, as well as 275 extras. At least four supporting roles went to locals who shone incredibly opposite their Hollywood counterparts.

Local actors in key supporting roles include Frances De Lancey who, as Ruth, is a remarkable new find; Russell Wilkinson as Ralph; Andrew Friday as the contest host; and, Penelope Spencer as the housekeeper. Kevon Brooks is outstanding as Skully the drug dealer. A familiar face in a minor role is former T&T cricket captain Daren Ganga.

This movie has great potential if screened in the Caribbean diaspora of America and Europe, as well as being distributed regionally. There is no hint of Americans trying to copy a Trini accent or vice versa as the dialect and language are kept simple and natural ensuring an easy imbibement of its script and flow.

The locations used, including Maracas Bay, Piarco, Hilton, Crews Inn and O2 Park in Chaguaramas, were well chosen and effectively used.

Perhaps I like Girlfriends’ Getaway as much as I do because it also reminds me so much of one of my all-time favourite movies, Herbert Ross’ 1995 flick Boys on the Side which starred Whoppie Goldberg, Drew Barrymore and Mary-Louise Parker.

​Girlfriends’ Getaway stars Essence Atkins (Smart Guy), Malinda Williams (Soul Food; Moesha), Terri J Vaughn (The Steve Harvey Show), and Garcelle Beauvais (The Jamie Foxx Show).
The film is showing at the following cinema locations: MovieTowne PoS, Chaguanas and Tobago, Cinemas 8 in Trincity and Hobosco in San Fernando.

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