Wednesday 11 November 2020

Movie Review: Support The Girls (2018)

A slice of life drama with some humour, Support The Girls spends a day with a resourceful but harried woman doing the best she can to stay emotionally afloat while helping others.

In Texas, Lisa (Regina Hall) is the exhausted general manager of Double Whammies, a sports-themed restaurant where the main attraction is young women servers hired to reveal curves and skin. Lisa does her best to look after the well-being of her girls, including single mom Danyelle (Shayna McHayle) and the bubbly Maci (Haley Lu Richardson). On this day Lisa scrambles to organize a car wash to raise money for her daughter-in-law Shaina, who may be in legal trouble for running over her no-good boyfriend. 

Meanwhile a would-be safe burglar is trapped in the restaurant's ceiling vent and the cable system is cut-off, with customers expecting to watch a big fight tonight. Server Krista is also having a breakdown after impetuously getting a large tattoo of basketball star Steph Curry. Lisa's personal life with husband Cameron is disintegrating, and she gets into an argument with restaurant owner Ben Cubby (James LeGros), who is worried about the ManCave national chain moving into the area and diluting his business.

Two thirds of a good film, Support The Girls peeks into the lives of often invisible working class women who sacrifice everything to keep the economy ticking. Director and writer Andrew Bujalski locates Double Whammies in a corner of a generic strip mall in a featureless Texas suburb, a utilitarian sense of place where bikers, truckers and men with their tolerant families just want to enjoy a burger and the game with a side of bare midriffs and a bit of cleavage.

Lisa is the resourceful guardian angel, carrying the weight of everyone's problems on her shoulders, bending every rule for the benefit of social survival. The car wash is off the books, job applicants pressed into service to raise money for one young woman who dared to stand up to her abusive boyfriend. She deploys Danyelle as a secret seductive agent to secure free rent for a sound system. When Lisa comes face to face with the inept burglar, she reveals what she knows to the person who needs to know, and no one else. And with a ferocious mama bear growl she stands up to a burly customer who dares to body shame one of her girls.

But this may be the day when Lisa finds her limit. Sleazy owner Cubby pushes too hard, she takes stock of what and why she is sacrificing, and decides to test a new attitude. She learns of secrets being kept from her, but finds ultimate disappointment in another woman's abandonment of self-respect, the antithesis of all Lisa stands for. 

Bujalski then hits a relatively early wall, the final third moving sideways then surrendering to raw hollering at abject nothingness. But in a pragmatic performance Regina Hall keeps the heart of the film throbbing, conveying plenty of can-do spirit to solve problems created by others, but also exposing the hurt within. Stretched to the limit and then stretching again, Lisa is everywoman toiling to keep food on needy tables and the wolves on a leash.

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