“It’s not so much, ‘I’m a woman, I know better,’” she said. “It’s more ‘I’m a woman and I’ve had these experiences so I know other women will relate to this as well.’”
She added that when a woman is writing the script or directing, there’s more opportunity to really push because women trust her and she often provides a level of comfort. Also they know women aren’t always delicate and can be the protagonist of a raunchy comedy just like a man.
Kate McKinnon agrees. In the movie, she plays an “Australian boho-sprite” — her description — and said it was refreshing to see these characters onscreen and play them, too. “For centuries dudes have been able to get into sticky situations and get themselves out of them and run around and just act foolish without there being a romance at the end of it,” she said, adding: “Typically if a woman is in a comedy she’s just there to get married or wag a finger at the men acting foolish. It’s such a breath of fresh air to be the one acting foolish and to be the one getting messy and making mistakes.”
Katie Dippold, the screenwriter behind this summer’s “Snatched” and last year’s “Ghostbusters,” said she wanted to write “the kind of movie I would have loved young me to have seen.” She grew up in the 1980s watching “Lethal Weapon” and other “movies where there were these crazy cop partners, but they were also best friends and had this bond. I always wished that existed starring a woman and I felt like women were being left out of the adventure.”
Paul Feig, who directed “Bridesmaids” and last year’s “Ghostbusters” remake, noted that for years, women weren’t given the reins in comedy. “They were just eye candy or being pursued,” he said, but added: “Comedy is the great equalizer. You want all characters, male and female, to look good and bad, ridiculous and powerful, for the opposite sex to have a better understanding of each other.”
“Girls Trip” (due July 21), starring Regina Hall, Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah and the breakout Tiffany Haddish, puts women smack in the center of the adventure and draws from the actresses’ stories too. The director, Malcolm D. Lee, said he and the writers wanted to the make a movie that “flipped the male paradigm of husbands acting badly, getting away with it and wives being none the wiser, but do it with women and do it R-rated.”
Set at the Essence Festival in New Orleans, it uses a similar template as “Rough Night”: college friends reuniting and in the course of a weekend realizing that their lives are not as Instagram-perfect as they may seem and that nothing can substitute for the bonds of real-time sisterhood.
Like “Rough Night,” the movie features plenty of scandalous situations, including a particularly gob-stopping one involving a grapefruit and the male anatomy.
“Women behave badly,” Queen Latifah said. “It’s important to look at reality, not just the fantasy. Men like to put women in boxes and often women do as well. We’re put into these boxes where we have to be a lady in the street and a freak in the bed and there are a lot more steps between those points. We need to see all of those steps.”
She added: “So much responsibility is put on women in terms of holding down the house or being mothers and maintaining some sort of image of perfect people who can handle everything, there is a lot of comedy just in that alone. Because that’s impossible.”
In Mr. Lee’s view, that comic reality is particularly lacking for African-American audiences. “It’s extremely important and people want to see themselves authentically represented onscreen,” he said. “Is this every black woman in America? No, but judging from the screenings, it is representative.” (He added that he also tested the film with his wife’s book club and they loved it.)
Like “Rough Night,” “Girls Trip” features some lines and experiences that the cast volunteered. Ms. Haddish, who plays the loudmouth Dina, said: “Seventy-five percent of the stuff Dina says is stuff I say in real life. Like, ‘Somebody’s going to get pregnant tonight,’ that’s what I say to my girls when we’re getting ready.”
In both films, gender roles are occasionally flipped. In “Rough Night,” the men worry more about their bachelor-party wine tasting than having a wild time.
Even with this summer’s crop of films, making a female-driven comedy remains risky. There have been plenty of successes in recent years, “Bad Moms” and “Bridesmaids” to name a few. But even so, the pressure to generate big box-office numbers remains high: With relatively few such films, any misstep is magnified. And audiences still sometimes hesitate to see them.
“The pressure seems to be on these movies, unfairly so, to be groundbreaking, or so fantastic, whereas some comedy is just fun,” Mr. Feig said. “I think there is an onus on audience members who want more women in movies to really support movies that have women starring in them. That’s the only thing that’s going to change the industry. Hollywood isn’t an altruistic town.”
Queen Latifah and her co-stars say they are putting their box-office power behind these films to move the needle faster. “It was a conscience decision” to sign up for an R-rated romp, she said. “A good comedy starring four black women you don’t see every day, and this is our way of making sure that it happens. Making sure that it’s done well and really enjoyable.”
Moreover, she said, “We all saw this movie as not just ‘Girls Trip 1,’ but we saw ‘Girls Trip 2, 3 and 4’ in our mind. And we could see this repeated in cities around the world.”