Writer-director Andrew Bujalski’s (Funny Ha Ha, Computer Chess) latest film is, in the most biting way possible, quite a misleading film. Support the Girls, a title that’s a nod to both the oversexualized nature of its setting and the resolute bonds of sisterhood packages itself as a campy workplace farce, but it packs a stageplay’s worth of dramatic heft into its barebones runtime. Bujalski dexterously places sexual politics under a microscope while still remaining engrossingly enjoyable.
Lisa, (a career-best for Regina Hall) manager at the independent, Hooters-style “breastaurant” Double Whammies, has the world resting on her shoulders. Her wait staff constantly bring their personal drama into work with them, her customers make repugnant remarks to the waitresses, her marriage is on the rocks, and her incompetent boss (James Le Gros) is breathing down her neck. Even when the fruits of her labor aren’t immediately apparent, Lisa bends over backward to make sure that Double Whammies continues to run smoothly and that her employees are on a path toward self-sufficiency.
“Her wait staff constantly bring their personal drama into work with them…”
Over the course of a single day, Support the Girls eloquently fleshes out its strongly defined characters, probing the intricacies of their labyrinthine relationship with one another. The narrative keeps its attentive eye on Regina Hall, whose tender, nuanced performance anchors the film and elevates its thematic reach far beyond its breezy outer shell. Lisa’s job is far from glamorous, but she assumes the role of den mother with poignant industry, going well above the call of duty to steer the others toward autonomy both in and out of the workplace.
Although it often brims with Office Space vibes, Double Whammies has become a home away from home for its employees. Whether it’s Danielle (Shayna McHayle) bringing her sick son into work because she can’t afford a sitter or cheery Maci (Haley Lu Richardson) flirting with her secret beau on the clock, the titular girls bring their lives into the restaurant, relying on each other for support and guidance. As they are forced to adopt a “take this job and shove it” mentality, they aren’t simply complaining about the trials of food service labor; they’ve been pushed to their absolute extremes and must test the bonds of family.
“…a framework for conversations about, among other topics, gender disparity, racial discrimination, and the brutal economic cycle of capitalism…”
In less discerning hands, this backdrop would provide little more than a vehicle for cheap sex jokes. Fortunately, Bujalski utilizes it as a framework for conversations about, among other topics, gender disparity, racial discrimination, and the brutal economic cycle of capitalism. If that wasn’t enough, he’s done so in a manner that’s, at the same time, deeply entertaining from start to finish. Who would have thought that such an effective working-class satire would also have some of the most clever body humor we’ve seen this year?
Support the Girls (2018) Directed by Andrew Bujalski. Written By Andrew Bujalski. Starring Regina Hall, Haley Lu Richardson, Dylan Gelula, James Le Gros, AJ Michalka, Shayna McHayle, Lea DeLaria, Jana Kramer, and Brooklyn Decker. Support the Girls screened at the 2018 Chicago Critics Film Festival.
8 out of 10