Support the Girls

Review by Manuela Lazic

Directed by

Andrew Bujalski

Starring

Dylan Gelula Haley Lu Richardson Regina Hall

Anticipation.

Bujalski is an astonishing filmmaker who finds humanity and humour in the most unlikely places.

Enjoyment.

The definition of a cathartic experience.

In Retrospect.

A neorealist take on our capitalist times, reaffirming the essential need for camaraderie every day of the working week.

Andrew Bujalski’s workplace comedy, set in a Hooters-style sports bar, offers a sly critique of the patriarchy.

Bras are at once a symbol of femininity and an emblem of the misogyny inherent to capitalism. Supposed to provide support to girls, they are also uncomfortable cages restraining the movements of half of the population.

The women working at sports bar Double Whammies in Andrew Bujalski’s Support the Girls wear push-up bras – as part of their uniform. They look good, but they are here to work, and they’re tired. Only the young new recruits, who are unexpectedly pressed into service straight after their job interviews, find their little red tops fun. But it’s only a matter of time before they too see their outfits as the stifling disguises they are.

Double Whammies, however, prides itself on being a “mainstream” establishment. In her position as general manager, Lisa (Regina Hall, finally given a real lead part to work with after so many great supporting turns) does her best to embody and encourage her establishment’s family values. Unlike their menacing chain competitors, her joint isn’t about waitresses being casually inappropriate with their rowdy male clientele.

Fathers and husbands come to Double Whammies to be taken care of by friendly women. Lisa, meanwhile, treats her employees like her siblings or children, ready to bend the rules to help them, even in the midst of chaos. Lisa is an angel of the service sector, at once humane and professional, patient and resilient. It’s the world around her that is less than ideal.

When an employee runs into trouble and badly needs a lawyer’s services, Lisa organises an illegal car wash to raise funds. Luckily, the clients don’t care much about where the money goes, but this disinterest in anything beneath the surface is a sign of things to come. The dehumanising effect of capitalism isn’t Bujalski’s main target, however.

Because he is working in a neorealist genre, it doesn’t come as any real surprise that neither work nor her marriage become easier for Lisa (which doesn’t mean that the ensuing turn of events isn’t heartbreaking – expectation isn’t always consoling). It’s what she does in the face of her insurmountable difficulties that reveals the director’s deep understanding of what it means to be a cog in the machine of our cruel 21st century economy.

Lisa’s basic modus operandi for day-to-day survival – which, in the case of the film, begins with a thief trapped in the vents and builds to other shop floor catastrophes. She wills herself to be helpful to the bitter end. Other employees have different coping strategies: Maci (the simply unbelievable Haley Lu Richardson) is the most upbeat person who’s ever worked in a diner or anywhere, and that is as much part of her personality as it is a put-on – it doesn’t really matter to her whether the two are distinct.

By contrast, single mother Danyelle (Shayna McHayle) takes no shit from anyone. But one trait unites them: they all love working together. Lisa’s family wasn’t just an idea. When all else fails, what remains and gets you out of bed in the morning is another support mechanism, and one that won’t dig into your flesh and which you can neither sell, nor buy.

Published 27 Jun 2019

Tags: Andrew Bujalski Dylan Gelula Haley Lu Richardson Regina Hall

Anticipation.

Bujalski is an astonishing filmmaker who finds humanity and humour in the most unlikely places.

Enjoyment.

The definition of a cathartic experience.

In Retrospect.

A neorealist take on our capitalist times, reaffirming the essential need for camaraderie every day of the working week.

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