Support the Girls

 

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Especially if Texan accents don't trouble you, this is a film to see.

 
Support the Girls

Haley Lu Richardson and Regina Hall

  

We have here a film which, whatever its weaknesses, reaches the heights in two respects. As it happens they are interlinked. First, there is the achievement of its writer/director, the independent American filmmaker Andrew Bujalski, who, despite being a man, has succeeded in creating one of the best portraits of female solidarity and camaraderie ever to reach the screen. His ability to realise fully the film's central character, Lisa, is a writing triumph in itself. Yet no less striking is the contribution of Regina Hall who in playing this part takes absolute command of the role and gives what must surely be one of the best performances by an actress this year.

 

In a film in which the female characters take centre stage, Lisa is the manager of a sports bar just off the freeway in Houston, Texas. It's an odd kind of place. While offering food and a big television screen ideal for viewing sporting events, it seeks to titillate its male customers by having all the waitresses attired in costumes that expose the midriff and the legs, but at the same time any physical contact between the customers and the girls is strictly forbidden. Even so, this place, which goes by the name of Double Whammies, might not seem to be a choice spot for girls to work but for the fact that Lisa is so warm and caring, so protective of the girls, that she is akin to a den mother and it feels like no exaggeration when the girls declare that working there is like being family.

 

Such a setup could easily come across as sentimental if not downright unbelievable but between them Bujalski and Hall make it real. The two employees closest to Lisa are Maci (the admirable Haley Lu Richardson) and Danyelle (the excellent Shayna McHayle), but all of the girls are really subsidiary characters compared to Lisa herself. Bujowski's films often contain humour but are essentially naturalistic and tend to avoid any big drama. In Support the Girls Lisa finds herself seriously at odds with her boss (James Le Gros) and her marriage to Cameron (Lawrence Varnado) is troubled. However, these issues and the problems involving the girls make for a rather slight storyline, even if it does climax in a rebellion. However, it is only fair to say that these issues might have come over as having greater weight but for the fact that I for one found the Texan accents made much of the dialogue difficult to catch leaving some plot points elusive. But, even if you should find yourself sharing my problem which has undoubtedly affected my rating above, there is no doubt that Hall is great and deserves to be seen and acclaimed. And it is no less true that at the heart of Support the Girls is a beguiling portrait of sisterhood so deeply expressed that it makes the film something special.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Regina Hall, Haley Lu Richardson, James Le Gros, Shayna McHayle, Dyfan Gelula, A Michalka, Brooklyn Decker, Jana Kramer, John Elvis, Lea DeLaria, Steve Zapata, Lawrence Varnado.

 

Dir Andrew Bujalski, Pro Houston King and Sam Slater, Screenplay Andrew Bujalski, Ph Matthias Grunsky, Pro Des Jake Kuykendale, Ed Karen Skloss, Costumes Colin Wilkes.

 

Myriad Pictures/Burn Later Productions/Houston King Productions/Slater Films-Bulldog Film Distribution.

86 mins. USA. 2018. Rel: 28 June 2019. Cert. 15.