For a film about a Hooter’s-like Texas sports bar named “Double Whammies,” Support the Girls features more heart than it does T&A. And the biggest heart belongs to Lisa (Regina Hall), the bar’s genial general manager who is having “one of those days.” In fact, her bad day begins with her crying in her car in the bar’s parking lot. The source of Lisa’s trouble eventually becomes clear, but not until after a series of other problems disrupt her day.
First, there is the man who has been trapped in the ventilation unit overnight. Then there is the fact that the cable goes out as the bar is planning to host a big fight night. All Lisa wants to do is train her new employees and have a (not entirely legit) car wash to raise money to support one of her employees in trouble. But those plans get shanghaied after her boss, Cubby (James LeGros) arrives unexpectedly. He takes Lisa to task for some unprofessional behavior in an extended scene that is both amusing and cringe-inducing. And that fine line is what makes this film work so well. Viewers understand how Lisa can put on a big smile when inside she is raging.
Watching Lisa react to all the chaos around her and trying to remain a cool blue ocean in a developing tsunami is one of the greatest pleasures of the highly enjoyable Support the Girls. Another delight is Hall’s superb, affecting performance. Just watch how Lisa informs a biker of the bar’s “zero tolerance” policy when it comes to disrespecting the staff, or just close her eyes and sigh, exasperated by one more obstacle in her seriously imperfect day.
Writer/director Andrew Bujalski comes from a mumblecore background, so his film is more character driven than focused on plot. This narrative strategy works in this easygoing comedy’s favor, and some laughs are wrung from Lea DeLaria injecting some verve as Bobo, a butch female patron who gets into everybody’s business, and John Elvis as a customer who is drolly self-aware as he drools over the staff.
Viewers meanwhile, will quickly come to appreciate and develop sympathy not just for Lisa, but also her two best employees, Maci (Haley Lu Richardson), a bundle of uncontrolled energy, and Danyelle (Shayna McHayle, ingratiating in her film debut), a dynamo of sex appeal and sass. The sisterhood that forms between three very different women is the film’s secret sauce. They are so great hanging out on a rooftop, drinking and screaming, some folks won’t want that scene to end.
Support the Girls is modest, compassionate film that, like Lisa—and by extension, Maci and Danyelle—uses its grit and its assets to charm viewers. The messages of female agency and empowerment are as salient as the subtexts about ethics and respect. Leave a big tip for everyone involved.
Support the Girls opens today at the Ritz Bourse.
Author: Gary M. Kramer
Gary M. Kramer is a Philadelphia-based freelance writer. He is the co-editor of Directory of World Cinema: Argentina. Volumes 1 and 2, and teaches seminars at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute. Follow him on Twitter @garymkramer.