It’s sometimes weird being a British film fan, as there can often be many months between a buzzy festival film first premiering Stateside and it arriving in UK cinemas. That is the case with Andre Bujalski’s drama Support the Girls, which debuted to very strong reviews at SXSW Festival back in March 2018. Over a year later, it’s finally here in the UK – and it’s a thoughtful drama with a handful of terrific performances.
Lisa (Regina Hall) is the committed manager of a Hooters-like sports bar called ‘Double Whammies’, struggling with a day in which she faces a break-in, a power outage, a new intake of staff and the constant input of her incredibly unpleasant boss Cubby (James LeGros). In amongst the “boobs, brews and big screens” her bar provides, she’s flailing desperately to keep everything together.
This is Hall’s movie on every level and her performance is terrific. Lisa is utterly devoted to her work and, more specifically, to the girls who form her staff. This is a film about the unlikely places in which sisterhood can develop, and the importance of female bonding in male-dominated spaces. Hall is fantastic as a woman maintaining an outwardly calm and unfailingly professional head while everything around her spins out of control.
Hall is smart, funny and charming and is supported by a cast who deliver naturalistic, witty turns that benefit from Bujalski’s freewheeling tone. Haley Lu Richardson is a bundle of peppy energy as experienced waitress Maci, while Shayna McHale’s Danyelle, effectively Lisa’s second in command, is a cynical mother doing the job solely to make ends meet. All of these women, however, have shades beyond their dominant traits, and Bujalski tenderly spins out these elements of their characters.
The key fault here is that the storytelling feels a little too loose. There are a few too many gaps left for the audience to fill, with the audience never getting much chance to feel the escalation experienced by Hall’s character. While the idea is clearly for a series of micro-problems to build into something more potent, the scattered ways in which the issues mount rob the movie of some of its emotional impact.
But, for the most part, this is an intriguing and enjoyable film, peppered with lashings of comedy and helped over the finishing line by Hall’s remarkable work. Its greatest strength is also its most obvious weakness, with its loose approach to storytelling ultimately leading to a finished product that doesn’t land with the emotional weight it should in its memorable, ambiguous final scene. Given the fact this is a movie that concludes with a very literal, defiant scream against the oppression of male-dominated society, it needs something more behind that scream.
Dir: Andrew Bujalski
Scr: Andrew Bujalski
Cast: Regina Hall, Shayna McHale, Haley Lu Richardson, James LeGros, Jana Kramer, Lea DeLaria
Prd: Houston King, Sam Slater
DOP: Matthias Grunsky
Music: Liz Lawson
Run time: 93 mins
Support the Girls is in UK cinemas from 28th June.