'Dunkirk' and 'Girls Trip' are opposite movies in subject matter, but they do share similarities beyond their 2017 release date.
Dunkirkand Girls Tripcould not be more opposite films. Released in the summer of 2017, the films were marketed and received as completely different types: Dunkirk was the Oscar-bait, a brutal and extravagant recreation of an early World War II battle, while Girls Trip was a feel-good R-rated romp about four best friends who spend a wild weekend reconnecting in New Orleans. Critics responded accordingly at the time, but looking back at the films five years later, it's clear that there's one thing critics didn't account for: legacy. Specifically, the legacy of Tiffany Haddish.
Both Dunkirk and Girls Trip opened in theaters on July 21, 2017, and the films, while both standouts in their own right, got very, very different reviews. As a major blockbuster from Christopher Nolan, an Oscar-nominated director known for creating visual set pieces, Dunkirk received a full welcome by the press, earning 53 Metacritic-approved reviews with a Metascore of 94. Malcolm D. Lee's Girls Trip, on the other hand, was only reviewed by 35 Metacritic-approved outlets and earned a final Metascore of 71. It's impossible to tell whether or not more reviews would have led to a higher Metascore for Girls Trip, but, in a world where movies can live or die by the press, it's notable that a film starring four Black women received less reviews than a movie about World War II that barely features one woman on screen.
The movies could not be more different, and yet they both faced similar challenges, namely reinventing a tired or classic genre — for Dunkirk, it was the World War II movie, and for Girls Trip, the raunchy female comedy. The general consensus among critics, as evidenced by the films' Metascores, was that Dunkirk succeeded where Girls Trip struggled. This is especially evident in the handful of reviews from critics who wrote about both films, like James Berardinelli of ReelViews, whose pieces helped Girls Trip earn a Metascore of 50 and Dunkirk a Metascore of 88. "Although Dunkirk is technically a war film, its tone and style are those of a high-octane thriller," Baradinelli wrote. In his review of Girls Trip, the same critic noted, "If the story sounds familiar, that's probably because it is."
That said, not all critics saw Girls Trip as just another R-rated female comedy seizing on the success of Paul Feig's Bridesmaids, which centered a group of women gathering for wedding party events and was released in 2011. The New York Times' Manohla Dargis' review amounted to a Metascore of 70 and noted that it "consistently manages to rework and even reinvigorate some severely worn-out conceits, setups and character types, mostly by complicating gender roles with class issues." Davis also reviewed Dunkirk, and her words were so positive her review earned that film a rare perfect Metascore (100).
Most reviewers who looked at both films wrote more favorably about Dunkirk, and is reflected in the films' overall Metascores. Only one had reviews that garnered them identical Metascores (75): Sara Stewart of the New York Post. Stewart's reviews highlight the difference with which critics approached both films, praising Girls Trip as "equal parts crass, heartfelt, and goofy," while applauding "Nolan's exhilarating camerawork." Compared to Dunkirk, Girls Trip appears to have been critiqued more on the general viewing experience, less on the filmmaking technique. Many reviews pointed out Dunkirk's solid Oscar chances, while Girls Trip was never predicted to be an awards contender, as is common with comedies. (Dunkirk went on to receive eight Oscar noms, including Best Picture, earning three wins in technical categories.)
Despite earning better reviews at the time, five years later, it's hard to say that Dunkirk has had a more lasting effect on Hollywood than Girls Trip, and that is solely thanks to Haddish. Even the most glowing reviews of Dunkirk fail to spotlight any of the performances from newcomers — and there were many. Dargis called young stars Fionn Whitehead, Aneurin Barnard, and Harry Styles "equally fine," and barely even mentioned the performances by the more established co-stars Tom Hardy and Mark Rylance. In contrast, you'd be hard-pressed to find a review of Girls Trip that doesn't mention Haddish's star-making turn as sexually free party girl Dina. Even lukewarm reviews, like the one from Mike Scott of The Times-Picayune(Metascore: 60), made sure to highlight the comedian, calling her a "dynamic and irresistible bundle of comic energy." Scott also reviewed Dunkirk, amounting to a Metascore of 80. And though he noted that all the characters were "well-portrayed," the critic wasn't especially wowed by any of the performances.
It's notable that Dunkirk failed to deliver any truly star-making debuts while Girls Trip made Haddish a star. Though not a requirement for a good film, a breakout performance is a way in which movies remain in the public consciousness. Girls Trip might not have been as well reviewed as Dunkirk, but it will forever be tied to Haddish's rise in Hollywood.