• Kyndall Cunningham

'Support The Girls' is an earnest portrayal of female friendships

Updated: Feb 13, 2019

Photo courtesy: Roger Ebert

Last December, writer Alison Willmore wrote a poignant piece for BuzzFeed News about her qualms with Hollywood’s rapid-fire distribution of “feminist” films. In it, she laments the sort of branded “wokeness” 2018 films like On The Basis of Sex, Ocean’s 8, Assassination Nation, Suspiria, and Mary Queen of Scots present at face value but fail to explore beyond female representation. One of the films she did praise, however, was Andrew Bujalski’s latest feature Support The Girls starring the phenomenal Regina Hall. The 90-minute workplace comedy, set in a Southern Hooters-inspired restaurant called Double Whammies, takes place mostly over the course of a day and gives the audience an exhaustive look at the familial dynamics of the women employed there.

The movie opens with a shot of Lisa Conroy (Hall), Double Whammies’ general manager, crying in her old, rusted car before her shift. For anyone who’s worked in the service industry, this sequence is particularly resonant before we even become privy to the anxieties of Lisa’s life. When she walks through the doors of the antiquated sports bar, Lisa transforms into an enthusiastic, focused commander with an overriding priority on her mind: She’s trying to raise money for one of her waitresses Shaina’s (Jana Kramer) legal expenses after she ran over her abusive boyfriend’s foot with her car. So she holds a car wash in Double Whammies’ parking lot. It’s a move that could get her fired. But she’s cares so much for Shaina’s wellbeing that she decides to take the risk.

In observing the day go by, we see how much of Lisa’s modus operandi is dictated by her moral impulses. When her waitress Danyelle (played by the organically hilarious Shayne McHayle A.K.A. rapper Junglepussy) has to bring her son to work because he’s fallen ill, Lisa has her waitresses take turns watching him. Then she’s forced to fire one of her cooks after his cousin tries to steal cash from the restaurant overnight. When the police asks Lisa if she recognizes the burglar, she lies to protect him from getting into a deeper mess. And when she has to fire her waitress Krista (Aly Michalka) for getting a giant, visible tattoo of Steph Curry’s face on her torso, she immediately helps her find another job.

But these routine acts of kindness come at a price. Lisa’s husband Gary (Chris V. Brown) is suffering from depression and feels abandoned by her devotion to her job. And Double Whammies’ disgruntled owner Cubby (James Le Gros) is considering firing Lisa, framing her moralistic habits as bringing drama to the company. While I obviously empathized with Lisa’ husband, I found it interesting and almost refreshing that the interests of the two most important men in Lisa’s life took a back seat to the women she cared about.

That brings us to the film’s long-awaited climax where Lisa’s maternal resolve and Regina’s emotional capabilities as an actress really shine through. It’s an achingly truthful stringing together of events that reminds us how perpetually disappointing life can be. Aside from the familial tendencies of female relationships, the idea that benevolence is sometimes, if not, most times a zero-sum game feels especially pertinent in regard to working under capitalism.

Above all, Support The Girls most vital conceit rests in its title. While film industry likes to flatten “feminist” portrayals to triumphant tales or “strong” women attaining power, the beautiful mundanity of female bonds are as equally meaningful to represent on screen. Society likes to tell women and girls are that we are inherently competitive and catty, but Support The Girls rejects that tired notion.

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