The Movie Waffler Now to MUBI - SUPPORT THE GIRLS | The Movie Waffler


support the girls review
The manager of a 'breastaurant' has a trying day.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Andrew Bujalski

Starring: Regina Hall, Shayna McHayle, Haley Lu Richardson, Dylan Gelula, Brooklyn Decker, James Le Gros, Lea DeLaria

support the girls poster

"Do you like working here?"

"I like working with you."

This exchange between a middle management stooge and her employee in writer/director Andrew Bujalski's Support the Girls gets to the heart of what really constitutes the difference between a 'good' job and a 'bad' job. It's not so much about the amount of money you earn, or how interesting your work is, though of course both those factors play a part. Rather, it's more about how well you get on with your co-workers and whether or not your employer appreciates your role. In the past, I've left well-paying jobs because of toxic office environments, and conversely stuck around in what many would disparagingly refer to as 'dead-end jobs', simply because I enjoyed hanging out with my co-workers.

support the girls review

Regina Hall's Lisa is stuck in what many would consider a 'dead-end job'. She's the day manager of 'Double Whammies', a Hooters style 'breastaurant' where everyone knows your name, along with your cup size. Lisa's boss, Cubby (James LeGros), doesn't respect her, and has actually fired her several times, but she simply kept turning up for work each time. A sub-section of her restaurant's patrons are sexist assholes, who treat her staff like pieces of meat. But what keeps Lisa from walking out are her girls. Lisa has a maternal relationship with her staff, in particular the adorably upbeat Maci (Haley Lu Richardson) and sardonic single mother Danyelle (Shayna McHayle).

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On the morning portrayed in Bujalski's film, Lisa arrives at work under particular stress, wiping away tears before she exits her car and sets about preparing the restaurant for another day's trade. As the day progresses, we come to learn that the chirpy face Lisa puts on for her staff and customers masks a troubled home life, and that despite how she goes out of her way to help people, her own needs are left ignored.

support the girls review

Support the Girls isn't some gritty Ken Loach-esque exposé of the exploitation of workers in the service trade. Like most of the employed population of planet Earth, Lisa and her girls are in a relatively crummy job, but they've learned to make the best of it, and some of them, particularly Maci, seem to genuinely love their work. It's an honest and heartfelt portrayal of working class life, one that never condescends to or patronises its characters.

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It's also one of the most recognisably American movies of recent years. When you arrive in the US, you quickly realise how under-represented the country is in its cinema, outside of New York and LA. Bujalski's film is set in a uniquely American corner of the world, a patch of Texan land amid a sprawling network of roads, and its soundtrack is the hum of traffic and country rock emanating from car stereos. Lisa is the very definition of an American, or at least the face they put on for us foreigners, all smiles and positivity in the face of adversity, and Hall is so good I can't help think the wrong Regina might have taken the Oscar last year (Support the Girls has taken a very long time to make its way across the pond, having opened in the US in summer 2018).

support the girls review

Bujalski has been making a series of low-budget 'mumblecore' movies throughout the 21st century, but it was his Altman-esque ensemble drama Computer Chess that really made critics pay attention. Support the Girls isn't on the same level as that movie (few are), but it's further evidence that Bujalski is one of the most observant and human filmmakers working in American independent cinema. If Computer Chess was Bujalski's Nashville, Support the Girls is his Come Back to the 5 & Dime, a female ensemble drama with genuine heart and characters that all feel fully realised no matter how little screen time they might be offered. Like the employees of Double Whammies, you should prepare to be touched.

Support the Girls is on MUBI UK now.