Support the Girls
- Nikki Baughan
- 24 June 2019
Regina Hall is remarkable in this smart, surprisingly feminist drama from Andrew Bujalski
A grubby Texas roadside bar whose all-female waiting staff wear the barest minimum of clothes may not seem like the most obvious setting for an insightful, surprisingly feminist drama. Yet, thanks to an intelligent, sensitive screenplay from writer-director Andrew Bujalski (Funny Ha Ha, Computer Chess) and a stupendous central performance from Regina Hall, that's exactly what Support the Girls reveals itself to be.
We first meet the smartly-dressed Lisa (Hall) as she weeps quietly in her car, in the parking lot of the crudely named Double Whammies sports bar, where she works as general manager. The film then follows her over the course of a stressful day, as she navigates new employees, aggressive customers, her misogynistic boss Cubby (James Le Gros) and, later, her failing marriage to a man who has simply given up (Lawrence Varnado).
This is a film not of high drama but of small moments, each met with compassion and resolve by Lisa. Whether it's standing up to a rude customer or attempting to show the bar's owner the error of his ways, she is a powerhouse of quiet humanity – a den mother who wants nothing more than for her girls to be respected, by others and by themselves. It's this nuanced, perfectly pitched performance that elevates this story above any notion of sleaze or cheap thrills associated with the locale.
That's also down to the fact that, despite the skimpy outfits, this is not a story distilled through the male gaze. The men of the piece, from the customers – some well-behaved, some not – to the kitchen employees are background noise; this story, and these experiences, belong entirely to the eclectic cast of women, all of whom subvert expectations through action and attitude. Standouts are Haley Lu Richardson as the ever-optimistic Maci, always seeing the best in people, and Shayna McHayle as Danyelle, a single mother determined to do her best for her son.
Bujalski is not only a white male storyteller who seems to genuinely understand women, but a filmmaker able to highlight the inherent sexism and racism knitted throughout society without resorting to soapbox or lecture.
Limited release from Fri 28 Jun.