“You’re married to this place.”
With its double entendre title and its fully realistic rendering of middle America consumerism, Support the Girls has a characteristically strong female voice that refuses to be silenced by the toxic masculinity walking through its restaurant doors. The men expect to be served with a smile and a hair flip and a laugh, to eat a bland meal and to ogle their waitresses up and down with hungry eyes, yet this film is different. It’s a case study in controlling and handling the bullshit of most men’s actions, how a Patriarchal society allows women to be vulnerable even in workplaces they manage with great authority, and how we can make family of coworkers we care about in places we could otherwise take or leave. Support the Girls looks small because it is intimate, and it feels big because its circumstances aren’t unique. That’s a good thing.
Support the Girls asks us to open our eyes, look past the selling points of its inspired business model, and to reinforce the naturally strong feminine spirit. And at the same time, the title flirts with the story’s risqué exterior. The location is “Double Whammies,” a small-scale sports bar with a “Hooters” vibe. The dress code entails a shirt cut just below the chest with a deep V for good measure, as well as push-up bras and skin-tight Daisy Duke jean shorts. The wardrobe literally supports the young women like Victoria’s Secret Angels walking runways full of cat-calls, and it bares a lot of skin to help them support themselves a little bit more at home. At the helm of it all is Lisa (Regina Hall). Overworked, underpaid, and fed-up with handling the neverending list of problems while the owner Cubby (James Le Gros) only pops his head in every once in a blue moon. The mom wants to leave and the girls beg her to stay.
We don’t get to know many details of the women in this workplace. Danyelle (Shayna McHayle) needs a babysitter so she can cover a shift. Jennelle (Dylan Gelula) is a new hire, already breaking the rules to line her shallow pockets with deep tips. Former employee Krista (AJ Michalka) laments her new tattoo – a huge print of Steph Curry’s face on her side – that got her fired in the first place. Most intriguing of the bunch is veteran server and jack of all trades Maci (Haley Lu Richardson). She’s a pro in an amateur game, always in good spirit, a generator full of energy when the rest of the place has been sucked dry. Not much is said about her personal life, but because Richardson is quickly becoming one of the most promising talents of her generation (see Columbus or The Edge of Seventeen for proof), her eyes and vivacity belong to a woman whose home is the work place. I can imagine her being the complete opposite home alone, and serving the people is when her true nature comes out. It’s the most dynamic performance in a film full of very good ones.
I’ve only seen writer/director Andrew Bujalski’s previous 2015 film Results – one which I still feel was terribly uneven – but I do applaud his interest in celebrating the working woman, especially in environments where men are often encouraged to conduct predatory behavior. Results revolved around a female person trainer, and Support the Girls broadens the filmmaker’s sensibilities to encompass a singular and fully female niche line of work. It’s frustrating by design, showing no end in sight, and although the story itself left me lukewarm and falls into a bout with rather stale drama, the final shot shows absolute brilliance. Three of the leading ladies head to the rooftop. Lisa and Maci and Danyelle. And as the film closes – echoing the famous Garden State scene – we watch them yell into the great void of the concrete jungle. Are they heard? I don’t think so. Are they empowered? Undoubtedly yes. Support the Girls ends with gusto, showing that most women, when free from the restraint of social norms, are more fierce and powerful than any man could ever be.
“We have a zero tolerance policy.”
Rating: 3.5 out of 5