fri 14/08/2020

Support the Girls review - working class dramedy misses edge | reviews, news & interviews

Support the Girls review - working class dramedy misses edge

Support the Girls review - working class dramedy misses edge

Great performances from an ensemble cast can't quite save this low-key sports bar drama

Haley Lu Richardson and Regina Hall as work buddies Maci and Lisa

A rambling portrait of 24 hours in the life of Double Whammies, an American sports bar where the waitresses entertain their TV-watching patrons by dressing in skimpy tops and tiny shorts. Apparently this is categorised as a ‘breastaurant’ (my spell-checker reels at this portmanteau, but there are several well-established chains in the US). Written and directed by Andrew Bujalski, acclaimed as the godfather of the mumblecore genre after winning praise for Funny Ha Ha back in 2002, Support the Girls works best if you don’t expect too much story development or a lot of fast-paced gags (the trailer is deceptively comic). 

Regina Hall, so good in Black-ish and The Hate U Give, plays Lisa, the nurturing manager of Double Whammies, a windowless bar off the highway in Austin, Texas. She's dealing with her own failed marriage to a depressive and striving to protect her employees from leering customers. Lisa recruits new waitresses and instructs them in the art of selling beers and earning tips without attracting the vice squad. She insists that despite the flesh and flirtations, this is a family restaurant. Single mom waitress Danyelle (Shayna McHayle) parks her young son in a booth when her child care fails. Motherly by nature, Lisa rallies the staff to an impromptu fundraiser for another waitress who needs cash after an accident. 

The girls wash cars in the parking lot outside, sprawling soapily over the windscreens, until their sleazy boss turns up. James Le Gros is almost unrecognisable as the bar’s lazy, bullying owner who grudgingly comes by because a thief got stuck in the air vents and blew out the cable TV system. There's a standout scene when one feisty regular, Lea De Laria (Big Boo in Orange is the New Black)  squares up to boorish patrons who don't play by the rules. Meanwhile, there's competition on the horizon in the shape of a sports bar with the enticing name Mancave. The rival recruits waitresses with the reassuring line that "our strategy is moving away from boobs and into butts’. Support the Girls is a generous portrait of blue collar life and fans of American independent cinema will recognise its style. Bujalski's dialogue rings true and he coaxes subtle performances out of his ensemble cast. At its best the film is reminiscent of early Jonathan Demme and Barry Levinson’s workplace comedies like Diner and Tin Men. The setting and ensemble nature also reminded me of Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing which centred around tensions that built up between owner, staff and patrons. But there's something missing here, there's very little edge or passion in the story-telling. As a critique of the exploitation of women and the impact of everyday racism, Support the Girls all too often pulls its punches in order to preserve its naturalistic style. The film runs out of energy long before its low-key finale.


Watch the trailer for Support the Girls


all too often the film pulls its punches in order to preserve its naturalistic style


Editor Rating: 
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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