Support the Girls (2018)

Directed by Andrew Bujalski

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Support the Girls looks at a day in the life of the general manager of a Hooters-like restaurant somewhere in Texas.  Regina Hall plays that manager, Lisa, who is overtired, under appreciated (by some) but nonetheless compassionate and giving to everyone around her.  She is a beacon, in some ways, the type of person we’d love to have watching our backs but for the most part the people of this story don’t realize she’s watching theirs (with two notable exceptions).

Lisa works at Double Whammies, a large establishment at which the proper term for a large beer is “Big Ass Beer” and which claims to be a family establishment even as it objectifies the women who run the place.

It’s one of those places sandwiched between freeway offramps, easy to miss except for to the few regulars whose lives seem to orbit the establishment, as if it’s some combination of a step club, therapist’s office and church.

The film opens with the sounds and sights of the nearby freeway, and it will end in much the same way.  The steady hum is like a rushing river, and Lisa will refer to it as an unremarkable but steady source of comfort.  Maybe it’s just a casual reminder that things keep going even when they feel like they’re ending.

Support the Girls has a plot but a lack of catharsis, you know, like life.

This is Lisa’s last day at Double Whammies, a job like any other but one that to her feels like a family.  Her two best coworkers, (or friends, daughters or sisters depending on how you look at it) are Danyelle (Shayna McHayle) and Maci (Haley Lu Richardson), the only two who can hold down the fort while chaos reigns.

Lisa is forced to rely on multiple new hires on their very first day because of staffing issues, thanks in part to one employee who broke her abusive boyfriend’s leg and another who Lisa has to fire because she got a Steph Curry tattoo on her abdomen.  Later she will let go one of the cooks when she finds that man’s cousin stuck in the ceiling, having tried to break into the office where she keeps the safe.

Lisa also has trouble with a distant, demanding owner, Cubby (James Le Gros), who insists on scheduling only one woman of color per shift, and with a former companion to whom she will illustrate her entire philosophy, “I can take fucking up all day, but I can’t take not trying.”

The best parts of the film, and there are a lot of them, deal with small interactions.  The plot doesn’t add up to much only if you’re looking for a conventional narrative, in which each scene builds on top of the other, propelling us towards some singular endpoint.

There is no such endpoint to this film, just a bunch of vignettes that show life’s more frustrating, even if unspectacular, side.  There is a climax of sorts, but it only takes place when Lisa is away from the action, no longer able to corral the drama.

In the end we find the central characters at a bit of a crossroads, with things having ended and new things presumably set to begin.  It’s one of those moments in life in which you can feel the end much more than the beginning, which is I guess a lot of life.

I once ended a blind date by saying, for some reason, “most of life is saying goodbye to things.”  You can reasonably expect there wasn’t a second date, and I’m not sure why I chose that time to wax bulls*t poetic, but I did, or I tried, and that was that.  I’m left with the same impression about Support the Girls, a movie that is never about the transition but in which things mostly just come to an end.

We depart the film with Lisa, Danyelle and Maci on top of the roof, screaming their hearts out like wolves howling.  It’s not especially glamorous or cathartic or anything.  It’s just them trying their best to exert some force, some control even, on the world around them.  They’ve all just seen their most recent employment end, and they have just interviewed for similar positions at a new company.  It’s a transition point in which the ship they’re hoping to climb aboard doesn’t seem too much of a step up over the one they just leapt from.

Similarly it seemed clear to me that Lisa recognized they might never be this close again, once different job prospects pull them in different directions and takes up the free time they might otherwise spend as they are in that moment, drinking whiskey on the roof.

Up Next: Beverly Hills Cop (1984), Computer Chess (2013), Hereditary (2018)

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