Support the Girls Sept 5, 2018 11:00:24 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Sept 5, 2018 11:00:24 GMT -5
Support the Girls (2018)
Directed by: Andrew Bujalski
Directed by: Andrew Bujalski
Haley Lu Richardson and Regina Hall in Support the Girls.
"Boobs, brews, and big screens" is how Lisa describes Double Whammies, a highway-side, Hooters-esque sports bar. She's the general manager, but she's more than even her lofty title suggests. She's the great stabilizer; the last rational force for a restaurant struggling to compete, specifically with ManCave, another similarly themed bar opening up down the road. We drop in on her working with Maci (Haley Lu Richardson), a much-younger mainstay of the restaurant, who has worked her way up behind the bar, as the two commit to training a gaggle of girls in lieu of an impromptu car-wash fundraiser under the nose of the bar's owner, Cubby (James Le Gros) — the reason for it not divulged until later.
Throughout the day, Lisa manages in every sense of the word. There's the obvious: she has a bar to run and she does so with professionalism and a gift for remaining calm while damage-controlling. She's also trying to manage her friend/coworker Danyelle (rapper Shayna McHayle, better known as Junglepussy), who is coming into her own difficulties on top of raising a child. She tries to manage and rectify her failing marriage, as well as her relationship with Cubby, which has descended into the least-effective manager/boss relationship you can imagine. Maybe most importantly, she tries to manage her employees by sticking up for them. The safety of her girls is top priority in her mind, and she'll always come to bat for them in the face of belligerent customers or dangerous environments.
In Support the Girls — a warmly funny but brutally honest new comedy — we see Double Whammies in two distinctly different states of existence. For the first half, we see it under Lisa's control, as she does her best and largely succeeds at keeping the business afloat and her girls safe. During the second half, following an abrupt exit, we see Double Whammies come apart, falling prey to the predictable but nonetheless heartbreaking misgivings that you can envision plaguing a palace whose selling point is young women, cleavage-bearing outfits, and slight, flirtatious arm-brushing as the waitresses assure your Miller Lite will be brought to you shortly.
The film is so textured and full of great characters, I wish writer/director Andrew Bujalski had optioned it as a ten-episode series on HBO. While successful at roughly 90 minutes, many individuals here could use more realized stories and a stronger presence. One of them is Krista (played by AJ Michalka, one-half of the "Aly & AJ" duo), who Lisa has to fire because she impulsively decided to get a midriff tattoo of NBA player Steph Curry's face — a blemish that will make her less marketable to the Whammies clientèle. Maci is another soul who could benefit from a little more development, although maybe I just want to see more of Haley Lu Richardson's effervescence on-screen — something she displayed early in films like The Bronze and has continued to maintain. Maci, in particular, is a ray of sunshine almost as a reaction to some of the darkness that closes in on the girls and the restaurant almost immediately after Lisa walks out the door. But even with the concentrated runtime, Regina Hall still manages to shine, in a career performance that should receive serious Oscar attention for its authenticity.
Bujalski's screenplay is super cognizant of the exploitative nature of restaurants like this, to the point where he gets the details in Double Whammies' appearance and presentation down to a tee — successfully emulating what Hooters and Titled Kilt like to do in the realm of disguising any obvious grossness with a feeling of innocence. He shows the cyclical process of how/why women get stuck in these thankless positions, on top of showing the entitlement of customers who feel the surrounding atmosphere compels them to offer their two-cents about a woman's weight, appearance, or opine how attractive they'd be with larger breasts. Never one to overplay or emphasize a joke, Bujalski keeps things muted, as if perpetually fearful of being too broad. One of the film's most sly instances is when Double Whammies' TVs, which are out for much of the film, abruptly turn back on and show the tail-end of a commercial for their competitor — a bit Bujalski doesn't feel inclined to embellish, to the point where you could miss it if you don't look to the top of the screen fast enough. Even with the subtleties, you can't miss the impressive ways Bujalski addresses his themes — the ending is an affirmation of how women not only respond and cope but how they're often forced to do so in that way.
Bujalski has always been a gentle filmmaker, so to speak. His earliest efforts, Funny Ha Ha and Mutual Appreciation, belonged to the subgenre known as "mumblecore," which predicated itself on novice actors, no real budgets, hyper-realistic settings and situations, improvised dialog, and what could be called the antithesis of production values. His films, while stylistically admirable, have often had one or two major issues in my mind (his last film, Computer Chess, was one I so desperately wanted to love for its concept and aesthetic but had a difficult time finishing). Still, Bujalski feels like he's been building towards a film like Support the Girls for quite some time — a film that fits comfortably in his zeitgeist, expands upon his earliest tendencies as a filmmaker, but embraces greener, richer pastures in themes and tone.
Starring: Regina Hall, Haley Lu Richardson, Shayna McHale, James Le Gros, and AJ Michalka. Directed by: Andrew Bujalski.