Support the Girls is stripped down storytelling, focusing on a group of women working at the sports bar “Double Whammies”, a Hooters-esque restaurant. Without excessive plot baggage, Support the Girls employs a mumblecore style on which writer/director Andrew Bujalski has built his reputation over the years. As the film probes the lives of these women through the ups and downs of a single work day at Double Whammies, Support the Girls proves not only joyous but honest: honest in its portrayal of the issues faced by women in today’s world, of the issues faced by the working class, and honest in the way capitalism has caused humanity to be cast aside for business. It is hardly a film that will assure viewers that everything will be alright, but it is one that will make audiences smile, laugh, cry, and scream, all while the world burns around them.
The film follows the events of the day through the eyes of Lisa (Regina Hall), the general manager of Double Whammies. She is essentially a mother figure for the young girls under her employ, sticking her neck out on the line to get them help when they need it the most. This is the case with Shaina (Jana Kramer), a former employee of Double Whammies who faces serious legal charges because of an incident with her boyfriend. As she interviews new hires with the help of gregarious employee Maci (Haley Lu Richardson), she plots to run a car wash to raise money for Shaina- a plan she will have to hide from the Double Whammies owner- and has to deal with someone who is stuck in the vent above the employee locker room. From there, things only seem to get worse all around her, but she only gets more relieved and happier while spending the day with her cherished friends, especially Maci and Danyelle (Shayna McHayle).
Through these unfolding events, Support the Girls tells a truly humanistic tale as the audience joins Lisa for all of her challenges, both at work and at home, as she desperately tries to maintain her sanity while still fighting for what she deserves. She tries to instill the same in the young girls she manages, urging them to fight and stand up for themselves whenever they face some form of harassment at the restaurant or in their personal lives. In many ways, this setup serves as somewhat of a microcosm of American society, complete with critiques of capitalism, the patriarchy, and immigration. All together, it serves as a larger examination of the working class and the dehumanization of people within the working world. This is especially exemplified by the Double Whammies owner Cubby (James Le Gros) who threatens to fire Lisa for covering for one of her employees after an incident that morning. Cubby throws the policy in her face, all the while losing sight of the people who work for him in his relentless pursuit for money. Lisa faces the same issues at another, similarly themed restaurant called “Mancave” in which interviewer Kara (Brooklyn Decker) proudly explains how they have “idiot-proofed” the jobs due to how dumb young girls are. In all, it is the same experience. For the employers, their employees are not human but liabilities, annoyances, or problems. Lisa finds herself forced to re-examine her career due to her refusal to lose her compassion, understanding, and love for her employees.
The film’s heavier themes as well as its balance between drama and comedy all rest on the shoulders of its cast, as well as in Bujalski’s ability to handle the tonal adjustments. In a great encapsulation of this, there is a scene where Lisa learns that she may very well lose her job. Angry, she bursts outside, kicks the ground, and flips off the security camera. Maci then runs outside, shoots off a confetti cannon, and yells out how much she loves Lisa. Bujalski times the introduction of comedy into the scene so well, allowing both the drama and comedy to blend together quite naturally while feeling very real. The cast- especially Hall and Richardson- also nail this, and all of the women have tremendous chemistry with each other that allows these moments to work. The film’s foundation on the theme of female friendship allows so many of their interactions to flow with great authenticity that even when the film flips between drama and comedy, it feels natural and appropriate.
As the strong, confident, and yet vulnerable Lisa, Regina Hall wears the weight of the film’s success on her shoulders, capturing the human core of her character and showcasing this unique and incredible individual from beginning to end. Haley Lu Richardson continues her hot streak of great acting performances, capturing the exuberant and incredibly optimistic Maci with the terrific balance of innocence, charm, and energy needed for the role. However, while Hall gives the best performance in the film, the real discovery here may be Shayna McHayle. This is only her first acting role, but she easily brings great honesty and a devil-may-care attitude.
However, one of the elements that holds Support the Girls back is how the film’s ideas take a shotgun approach, hitting on a variety of ideas but never in great depth. As a mumblecore film this is to be expected, but with the wide range of issues explored- especially when it comes to Lisa’s personal life or her issues with Shaina – Support the Girls lacks enough meat to really make those elements come to life. Bujalski never seems to latch onto those at-home issues as much as he does with the workplace issues, leaving them on the back burner while only skimming the surface for some interesting details. The workplace themes get better treatment, but similarly find themselves fighting for space and screen time. The characters similarly have to fight for screen time with Lisa being the only one truly examined in any depth. The rest, even Maci and Danyelle, are largely left as one-dimensional or background personalities.
A funny, charming, and consistently thought-provoking film, Support the Girls is made on the backs of its incredible cast as well as the strong work of Andrew Bujalski. It is a film that dares to show the world of the working class as it is without any frills or excess, focusing instead on real people living their lives and facing countless issues along the way. In this light, its mumblecore style yields great results, and also creates characters so endearing and likable that one will want to hang out with these women for as long as possible.