Support the Girls (2018)
Written & Directed by Andrew Bujalski
Double Whammies is a sports bar modeled so directly after Hooter’s, the once-popular American chain, that most audiences will know right away what world is being explored in this film. Yes, there are twenty-something scantily clad women slinging beers and wings, but this isn’t an exploitative picture. Support the Girls is a story about working-class women, a companion piece in some ways to Soderbergh’s Magic Mike, though not as well-made as that movie. The central character is not one of the waitstaff mentioned above but manager Lisa, who is spending a day dealing with crises of small and earth-shattering potential. The conflict in every instance is deeply grounded, and human and Regina Hall’s performance as Lisa is the strongest element of this film.
Support the Girls is a film entirely about gender and labor without being explicit about these themes. Instead, it is telling the story of a person, Lisa who is struggling with a crumbling marriage, trying to be a mother figure to vulnerable young women, and satisfying the irrational outbursts of a petulant owner. Lisa is continually cutting corners, forced to find loopholes, and call in favors all while trying to be as by the book as possible. This is a scenario that cannot hold for long, and the audience is witness to the day where Lisa just couldn’t keep going any longer. There’s no dramatic third act, it ends the way these things end in life, a person burns out and walks away, hoping the next chapter is less stressful than the last.
The film is clear to state that something like Double Whammies isn’t a money machine, with societal norms and expectations changing. Our culture looks at something like this restaurant and, most of us, see it as a relic of another time. The bills aren’t getting paid because the customers just aren’t coming in any longer. There’s a couple of regulars, but most people come in to gawk once and leave or get booted. Sporting events on pay per view are the main reason men will come in. During the third act, the restaurant is hosting guests who want to view a boxing match. One of the waitresses tries to use her charms on a customer who rebukes her gently letting her know he’s there to eat and watch tv.
The women that work at Double Whammies are single moms, living with half a dozen roommates, or in toxic relationships with asshole boyfriends. They are joyful about life or merely neutral, accepting this is what it will be for them until they get old. The future is another a job at a place sort of like this one, that will likely close a year from now forcing them to look for yet another position somewhere, the pool of jobs shrinking bit by bit.
Haley Lu Richardson continues to impress, this time playing the supporting role of Maci, the most bubbly and upbeat waitress to have ever lived. In a lesser film, Maci would be the airhead character, the butt of blonde jokes. In this movie, we see her as a complex woman who chooses to see the positive in life, regardless of the circumstances. Maci is definitely a social butterfly, so waiting tables at a place where the staff is expected to exude charm and flirtatiousness is a perfect fit. She plays as an excellent foil to Danyelle (Shayna McHale), a single mom who doesn’t have time in her life for anyone that wants to waste it. Danyelle has caught onto the game of labor and isn’t going to waste effort on someone who wants to exploit her without a benefit existing for herself.
Support the Girls isn’t a movie that intends to blow your mind or evoke your emotions until you are drained. This is a tight little neorealist film that wants to examine a day in the life of the working class, highlighting the intelligence of people whose thoughts are often discounted. Family is found among your fellow laborers, who share the same struggles day in and day out. This means that even when the company crashes or leaves you all out to dry through solidarity, you find solace and a way to keep moving into an uncertain future.