Support the Girls Review
Horrible bosses are the subject of a great many films. Horrible Bosses (the title is a big giveaway) Set It Up, The Devil Wears Prada and The Proposal are just a few examples of the last few years - 'bad bosses' is a well understood trope which has been utilised by movies, almost well enough to spawn its own sub-genre. As influential as a bad boss can be, so also can a boss be good; someone who supports you in a workplace that, perhaps, does not. They are a person who is invested in you as a person, not just as an employee. Someone who will put themselves on the line to protect you. If you are lucky, that person may look something like Lisa, Regina Hall’s optimistic yet fed-up manager in Andrew Bujalski’s Support the Girls.
Bujalski is somewhat renowned for films where there is little to no real action - his films feel real and authentic, almost as if he has stumbled upon his characters going about their daily life and happened to set up a camera to capture the goings on. His past films (Frances Ha and Mutual Appreciation) follow this formula, and Support the Girls is no different. It’s a day-in-the-life of Lisa, manager of Hooters-esque sports bar chain Double Whammies – minor events occur which lead to larger consequences. What begins as a fairly mundane look into Lisa managing a situation involving stolen cash leads down a path of questioning why she even wants to continue to work at a place which continually disrespects her and the other employees. From an incompetent owner, to misogynistic customers, to outside pressures of a new establishment (ManCave) opening on their doorstep – Lisa has big decisions to make.
In true Bujalski style, nothing is happening, whilst everything is happening. The script is air-tight, as the dialogue between Lisa and her two most trusted servers - Haley Lu Richardson’s Maci and Dylan Gelula’s Danyelle -reveals intimate details about their lives, without ever entering into melodrama territory. Support the Girls is reserved and observational until the point when it is not – the ending is pure emotion and is worth watching for it alone. Along with the script, Hall, Richardson and Gelula (along with the other minor characters) ensure that Support the Girls is relatable throughout. It’s hard not to watch it and see oneself as Hall, struggling to get through a day which just will not cut her any slack.
Despite stellar performances all round, this film is all Regina Hall’s. She walks a perfect line as Lisa – determined yet resigned, hopeful yet tired. As the narrative reveals more of her personal life, Lisa transforms from a good-natured boss, striving to keep things together, to a well-rounded and realistic character. Though the script is excellent, Hall conveys a great deal of Lisa’s inner thoughts and fears through body language; Lisa even walks like she has been on her feet waiting in bars most of her life.
It’s strange that Support the Girls has been heavily marketed as a comedy. There are funny moments within the film, however, those expecting laugh out loud scenarios and punchlines will be disappointed. The humour comes from deep emotional moments and an understanding of the characters - many of the moments which may seem to be invoking comedy are actually deeply uncomfortable for the protagonists of the film. This isn’t to say that the film doesn’t handle this issue properly - Bujalski isn’t prompting us to laugh at the sexism and racism on display, in fact, it is quite the opposite.
Support the Girls is a real journey, made more authentic by the low-budget look and feel of the film. Lisa, Maci and Danyelle feel so tangible as people that Bujalski could have been making a documentary here. It’s a well-crafted story exploring sacrifice, friendship and knowing when to give up, which feels completely effortless. And, if it’s good enough for Obama, then it’s good enough for everyone else.