Movie Review: “Support the Girls”

Written and directed by Andrew Bujalski, “Support the Girls” largely takes place in a Hooters-esque establishment.  That is, the waitresses are scantily clad and the majority of people who dine there, the supposition goes, are there to ogle the women, drink large beers, and watch some sports on TV.  It is said more than once in the movie that the restaurant, Double Whammies, is really about family dining, but that’s more lip service than anything else.

While it would be easy to imagine that such a film would spent a large percentage of its time, like the patrons in the restaurant, ogling its cast, that is not the case.  “Support the Girls” is in fact about Lisa (Regina Hall), the general manager, and her desire to truly support the women who work for her (the title is not some of awful double entendre).

These women, as Lisa is happy to admit, have more than a little trouble in their lives, but she goes out of her way to try to make their lives better.  I am not sure if the movie qualifies as a tale of hope, but it certainly works as a story about just how much of a difference one person can make if they truly care.

On the negative side, the movie is not shy about stating the importance of good boss outright.  It is a repeated refrain, it is beaten into the audience, and that is rather disappointing.

Support the Girls” is, essentially, a small story.  It is about one woman working at a depressing restaurant.  She hates her job and hates her boss but keeps chugging along because there are people in and around her life who need her, who count on her.  It is sad, but it is not without humor and not without more than a tinge of hope.

Almost all of this hope is imparted by Hall, who is outstanding in her role.  While her employees, mainly Maci (Haley Lu Richardson) and Danyelle (Shayna McHayle), have stories of their own going on, it is Hall who remains front and center for most of the movie.  Impressively, even when Hall is off camera, she maintains an incredible presence.  It isn’t just that Lisa is discussed when she is not around (although she is), it is that Hall’s performance leaves a palpable resonance.

While it is often said that an actor imparts heart to a film, I am sure I have said as much myself, Hall truly does that here.  We feel her anger and upset as she battles the restaurant’s owner, Cubby (James Le Gros) and kicks people out of the place for misbehaving.  We feel her upset at knowing that work the system so that she is able get more done than most would think possible while still remaining aware that what she can manage all too often is not enough.

More than once we watch as Lisa comes face-to-face with the fact that she cannot force a direction upon the girls.  She can point them in the right direction, she can help provide a paycheck and sometimes even shelter, but she cannot stop them from making poor decisions.  It is upsetting to watch her hit these stumbling blocks over and over again and to know with certainty that this is no the first day that she’s run up against them, nor will it be the last.

Walking away from “Support the Girls” one will look around them, contemplate their life, and try to figure out if they have their own Lisa somewhere (or if they are, perhaps, someone else’s Lisa).  Her empathy and her sense of right and wrong are things we should all want for ourselves. She is someone we would all want to help if we could and someone we would all seek out when we needed help.

It is a touching story that will cause one to smile and shake their head in sadness at the same time. Bujalski and Hall bring us into the lives of these people for just one day, but leave us wanting to experience them for so much longer.

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photo credit: Magnolia Pictures

 

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