You may have never heard of Andrew Bujalski’s Support The Girls, which played at several film festival for much acclaim, but then seemed to disappear and arrive in cinemas last spring with very little noise. It’s a film for anyone who has ever worked in hospitality or any job that has felt unsatisfying and gratuitous for all the wrong reasons.
Support The Girls follows Lisa (Regina Hall), who works as a manager in a Hooters-esque sports bar Double Whammies where the beer flows and the servers are scantily clad for the enjoyment of the customers. Lisa’s day is full of ups and downs, she is a manager who deeply cares for her girls, but is also stretched too thin between the inappropriate and angry customers and the terrible boss.
Regina Hall dominates the film. She is the heart and soul of the film and her performance is nothing short of amazing, but it’s never flashy or over the top. Lisa is an employer we’ve all hopefully encountered at least once in our life. She puts her staff above the company and provides them with a home away from home of sorts. Lisa’s relationship with her girls is the film’s strong point, it’s emotional and always engaging.
Haley Lu Richardson plays the slightly ditzy server Maci, but there is nothing ditzy about Richardson’s performance. She injects the film with much-needed humour and energy, stealing all her scenes. Newcomer Shayna McHayle also holds her own among the more seasoned actors and Lea DeLaria is a welcome surprise to the cast. James Le Gros is appropriately sleazy as Lisa’s boss, who clearly isn’t very good at his job. It’s another example of how underappreciated and overworked the more than qualified Lisa is. Though clearly superior, Lisa is probably not compensated properly for her efforts to care for her staff and customers, but she is forced to make do. As a result of her time- and energy-consuming work, her personal life and relationships start to crumble and Hall beautifully portrays the sadness in Lisa.
The film really hits all the right spots when observing Lisa’s normal, if chaotic workday. From talking to police officers, dealing with broken down TV’s on the night of a big sporting event and sorting out the bar’s rota, it’s remarkably accurate portrayal of working in hospitality. It’s a frustrating job and Lisa faces several small challenges throughout her day, all of which wear her down but they have also become the new norm.
A fantastic scene shows Lisa talking to one of her employees who accuses a man of calling her fat. While she’s saying all this, another employee informs Lisa of a man possibly throwing up in the toilets. There’s the tiniest amount of hesitation on Lisa’s face when she must decide which she deals with first, but something tells us this is a pretty common occurrence in Double Whammies. Bujalski makes a point about Lisa’s life being an exhausting chain of events and interruptions. It’s a chaotic way of working and existing, but Hall’s performance keeps the film and the character of Lisa grounded in reality.
The film also perfectly captures how women have to use their bodies as currency. Early in the film, Maci teaches the girls how to upsell another drink to a customer by using body language and even laughing with her mouth open wide. The film is never malicious and Bujalski isn’t interesting in making any political points, instead just observing the ways women are often forced to make their way in the world, especially in the hospitality industry. Bujalski’s film also has a lot to say about corporations trying to cash by using women’s bodies for monetary gain.
Bujalski captures his subjects with clarity and Support The Girls is surprisingly cinematic, especially when it’s trying hard not to be. Bujalski finds beauty and poetry in the most unusual places such as frying some mozzarella sticks or Maci playing with a hula hoop. It’s a subtly feminist film, one that easily places female friendships front and centre with such natural affection it’s hard not to fall under the film’s spell. It’s also funny and all the humour springs from real, natural situations and pure love. It’s a film about strong women in lousy jobs, keeping it together and holding onto each other for support. Support The Girls truly deserves your support.
Dir: Andrew Bujalski
Scr: Andrew Bujalski
Cast: Regina Hall, Haley Lu Richardson, AJ Michalka, James Le Gros
Prd: Houston King, Sam Slater
DoP: Matthias Grunsky
Runtime: 93 minutes
Support The Girls is now out on DVD and Digital.