Film review: “Support the girls” (2018)

“Support the girls” (2018)



Running Time: 91 minutes

Written & directed by: Andrew Bujalski

Featuring: Haley Lu Richardson, Regina Hall, James Le Gros, AJ Michalka, Dylan Gelula, Shayna McHayle, Lea DeLaria, Jana Kramer, and  Brooklyn Decker

Lisa: “I started this day off crying, so if you ask me, laughing is progress.”

There can be no real surprise that some of the best most original as well as ground breaking films are produced by independent companies, writers and directors who work with limited budgets, sometimes limited talent to tell stories that are ignored by major studios. This seems to occur more and more as there is a glut of not only homogeneity within the studio system, but also the motivation to make a profit as an overarching goal, which in turn robs creatives of risk to tell stories that may not appeal to the mass market, but at the same time to not alienate prospective viewers. With increasing mergers, as well as takeovers of major studios, like 20thCentury Fox and Disney, this lack of risk only increases especially with a conservative company like Disney who in the near future may control seventy per cent of the movies released in the US which is staggering not only in the amount of money they will make, but the control over the publics choices, which will decrease dramatically. This is why when great independent, original films are released that have the cast as well as support that “Support the girls” (2018) does, it should be embraced by critics as well as the public, as this type of film will become more important as the years roll by as they will become a rare breed indeed.

There are plenty of reasons to love “Support the girls” (2018), from its cast, that are all women, to its setting of a ‘Hooters’ like bar, the fact the narrative (mostly) takes place over one day, the reflection upon the current state of the US, in terms of its economy, politics as well as the gender realities that exist in a post-Trump world. This film does what great films do in that it perfectly reflects society in a way that is not only obvious but does so while keeping a sense of humour within its own reality which means it is not preachy or condescending, it takes its plot seriously from a point of view that is rarely seen, a working woman who has to juggle a myriad of tasks while being viewed as an object, at the same time working with women who are treated even more like objects by only their customers but their friends and boss. What Andrew Bujalski has created as writer/director is a film that seems like it is without plot, made up of only a narrative, don’t be fooled, this is a story that many people will recognise either in themselves, in their friends or in their own family which when this movie ends will have any audience reacting in very different ways.

This is a film that could only be made by someone who knows how to finely craft a film into something that actually means something which is why Andrew Bujalski seems perfectly placed to not only write “Support the girls” but also direct it in a way that only supports the story, not outshining it with camera technique or trickery. Over the past sixteen years it seems that Bujalski has been building to this film, something that he has complete control over while displaying some artistry in not only the subject, the writing but in the perfect cast he has assembled with what some may consider some very original choices being made in that area. Only a writer/director of some talent could construct a film that delves into what it is like to be a working woman in bar like ‘Double Whammies’ walking in their shoes, telling their stories while maintain integrity in that telling. He appears to have really understood his subject from the outset, a good comparison in many ways is “The Florida Project” (2017) that explored characters through the lens of people who have very little in the way of security in their lives with nobody to bail them out.

“Support the girls” is primarily the story of Lisa who is the general manager of Double Whammies, a sports bar that features skimpily dressed waitresses. Always nurturing and protective of her staff, she soon faces one trying day that tests her optimism at every turn.

The quintessential piece of casting in “Support the girls” is Regina Hall who over the years has become famous for the parts she has played in the broad comedies “Girls Trip” (2017) as well as the “Scary Movie” (2000-2006) franchise which has seen her be an over the top protagonist in very defining supporting roles. With the former movie Hall could have capitalised on the box office success of that movie but has instead taken what clout she gained, pivoting into what must be her first serious role that has something to say about the current state of US society which is not restricted by race but includes her gender as well, something rare for any actress. The character of Lisa is a revelation for Hall who is not only outstanding, but is a well defined leader in a cast that includes one legitimately great character actor and one relative newcomer who almost steals the film, but Hall is that strong that she is magnetic onscreen leaving the audience clueless as to what she will do next. The ingénue of the piece is Haley Lu Richardson, although she has appeared in a great number of movies of the past few years, here shines as a bubbly positive effervescent character that has taken a page out of Lisa’s handbook and is the wild card of the movie just stealing scenes and actually being the instigator in the final scene to a kind of happy conclusion for the story, if in fact there is one. Richardson proves again why she is going to be an actress to keep an eye on over the next few years as her roles become more substantive and she becomes even more comfortable onscreen. Finally there is the great James Le Gros has been a staple of the independent film scene for over two decades here he plays a part that may have been reductive in a lessor actors hands but he makes this a three dimensional character who never seems cheap or his motivations unearned, it is a portrayal worthy of this great film, he is excellent opposite all the women in this movie, not an easy task at all.

“Support the girls” is very much a film of its time with a cast that defies what it may be considered normal, as well as marketable, having the majority of well defined actors being female, minorities or even gay, none are prototypical actresses who you may expect to be in a movie like this. Not only that but they all at some point make decisions that are against there own better judgment, that is they work against their own interests, but also make decisions that are morally correct costing them security which is representative of real life. This is also a film that illustrates how men see women as well as how that flows into the kind of work that women must do if they are to survive, sell themselves as something they are not which is a reflection of economic as well as political realities. We also witness how these women see each other in terms of protecting as well as supporting each other, in respect of not only their friends but their families. One of the sobering realities is at the end of the movie when Lisa is applying for a position at a similarly themed bar where we see a women employer, expressing the types of girls they need as well as what she and the company thinks of them, this is a truly sad scene that is so well written it has to be one of the best of the year.

This is an excellent film as well as one of my personal favourites of the year, with a killer cast as well as a compact narrative that is set across only a couple of locations it illustrates why low budgets can be a gift to filmmakers, the fat is cut away leaving only the message that the writer/director wants to express. “Support the girls” offers a realistic look at what it is like to be an underrepresented segment of society that have very real problems in terms of how they are viewed as well as how difficult it is to not only get ahead but just to stay above the poverty line, the car wash scenes are proof of that, an incredibly sad indictment of living in the US with little or effectively no money. What is refreshing is to see the women take control in very cool ways as well as this film actually being humorous as well which again is original but poignant. This is a high recommend, you should see as soon as possible.