By Janine Gericke.
How do we balance work, family, friends, everything in our lives without breaking? This relatable film is a study of working class America with echoes of the #MeToo movement and discrimination in the workplace. Director Andrew Bujalski’s newest film Support the Girls is an entertaining look into a Hooters-esque “family” restaurant – Double Whammies – where the waitresses wear red cropped shirts and very short shorts. Bujalski is one of the original mumblecore filmmakers, who earned great acclaim with his debut Funny Ha Ha (2002) and 2015’s Results. These are low budget, naturalistic films that focus heavily on the relationships between their characters. At the center of this story is the restaurant’s general manager Lisa, wonderfully portrayed by Regina Hall. Written and directed by Bujalski, Support the Girls shows us a day in the life of Lisa and the women she works with in an unnamed Texas town. The film received a warm reception at this year’s South by Southwest and rightfully so. It’s a delightful feminist film with a sparkling cast, who are each given moments to shine.
When we meet Lisa, she is sitting in her car in the parking lot of Double Whammies, crying. The scene builds instant empathy for the character: Sometimes you just need a good cry. One of the waitresses, Danyelle, played by a scene stealing Shayna McHayle, knocks on her window and Lisa doesn’t miss a beat, pulling herself together and ready to start the day, not yet knowing what that day holds in store. Lisa is the supportive, empathetic, eternally optimistic friend the women of Double Whammies look up to. She has zero tolerance toward harassment or any form of abuse against these women. On this particular day, Lisa has to deal with training new waitresses, the police and an attempted robbery, the cable going out (on the day of a big fight), her horrible boss, a carwash fundraiser for a girl who ran over her abusive boyfriend, and her estranged husband who refuses to move out of their home. It’s enough to make anyone snap. So, it’s no surprise when she decides to leave later in the day, causing the entire place to fall into chaos without her.
Casting directors, Toni Cobb Brock and Sally Allen, did a bang up job on this one. The characters are what really drive this film, and the cast is incredible. Alongside Lisa and Danyelle, there is Cubby (James LeGross) the clueless and crass owner of Double Whammies. He has a few rigid rules for his establishment: NO DRAMA (the Number 1 rule) and what he refers to as the “Rainbow Policy” of only having one African American waitress per shift. Of course, Lisa and the girls don’t like or agree with Cubby and he really doesn’t like or appreciate what Lisa does for the restaurant and its staff. Things would run so much smoother if she was able to manage things the way she wants, which would also make everyone else happy. The rest of the supporting cast is exceptional, with the upbeat Maci (Haley Lu Richardson), who refuses to let anyone or anything get her down. Jennelle (Dylan Gelula), one of the new girls who is super confident and has no problem using her sexuality to make good tips. Although we only meet her later in the film, Krista (AJ Michalka) has a great scene where she shows Lisa her new tattoo, of Stephen Curry, which takes up most of her side. Krista knows that her new ink means that she’s fired, but Lisa does a great job of being both supportive and trying to hide her aversion to the tattoo. Bobo (played by the awesome Lea DeLaria of Orange is the New Black) doesn’t get nearly enough screen time, but is just so much fun to watch. She, much like Lisa, is a protector, keeping an eye on the men who come to the restaurant and ready to kick out any bad apples. Shaina (Jana Kramer) also doesn’t get very much screen time, but much of the story revolves around the chaos created by her character—She is the reason the women hold a carwash fundraiser.
Because Double Whammies is a cut-rate Hooters, the way the women are sometimes treated is difficult to watch. These characters aren’t naive, they all realize this comes with the territory. But, even that has its limits. When Maci is body shamed by a customer, Lisa doesn’t hesitate to kick him out. These women support and protect each other and their relationships are inspiring to see.
Janine Gericke is a Film International ‘In the Field’ writer.