Support the Girls
The Hooters-style bar setting of Andrew Bujalski's Support the Girls and its double entendre title prove a misdirect; this is an empathetic, refreshingly incisive portrait of women at work that's as funny as it is generous
There’s a version of Support the Girls that winks as it cheats its audience with the shallow promise of ‘girl power,’ a version that begs reward for performing the easier – lazier – task of courting sisterhood, in all its slippery allure, without actually getting at anything true. The film Andrew Bujalski has made instead is an empathetic, refreshingly incisive portrait of women at work, principally the work of navigating men, professionally and personally.
None of it would quite take shape without the wonderfully layered, considered performance from Regina Hall as Lisa, manager of a Hooters-like sports bar called Double Whammies. Lisa’s warm, maternal, no-nonsense devotion to her waitresses – among them single mother Danyelle (a charismatic Junglepussy) and bubbly second-in-command Maci (Haley Lu Richardson) – frequently puts her in the crosshairs of her racist boss Cubby (James Legros) and also, as we come to find out, her husband. The film unfolds largely over a single day as Lisa encounters one problem after another, and what forms is a microcosm of all the things that trouble women in the workplace: micro-management, child care, sexual harassment, and so on.
Support the Girls manages a rather deft balancing act. It’s as funny as it is generous; the cheeky double entendre title and our heroines, clad in revealing crop tops and denim cutoffs, ultimately prove a misdirect. The joke is never on them. Rather, it’s the humour of constructive optimism that animates the picture. Bujalski, who resists the urge to telegraph the film’s feminist underpinnings, reckons seriously and realistically with the limits of their world, where industry abuses against women are so old and common they hardly even disturb anymore.
At the end, what these women have is a fearsome resilience deeply linked to the ways they love and protect and rely on each other. Their sisterhood is forged out of real, hard things and those are the bonds that resonate.