Support the Girls
17th October 2018 6.15pm at Picturehouse Central
20th October 2018 8.50pm at BFI Southbank (NFT)
21st October 2018 1.00pm at Rich Mix
The premise of Andrew Bujalski’s latest feature doesn’t exactly scream hilarious, female-empowering comedy. Following a group of women working at Double Whammies, the “sports bar with curves”, the film immerses us in a masculine territory of the sleaziest order: fried food dripping with grease, “big-ass” beer glasses sloshing over the bar, scantily clad women catering to the prowling eyes of predatory men. And yet, from the appearance of the title card to the final poignant minute, Support the Girls is a joyous celebration of female solidarity.
The movie anchors itself on the bed of moral principle laid out by Lisa (Regina Hall), both manager and mother of the establishment. Working in a testosterone-fuelled world, she is a woman with one main priority: to “support the girls”. Whether it be by raising money to help one of them out of a tight situation (the classic scrape of accidentally-on-purpose running over your ex), by barring any customers who disrespect her team or providing childcare, she is the backbone of the entire operation. Hall wins our hearts with a smile that somehow holds you in a warm embrace, and yet she switches to a stern stare with perfect comic timing. Also putting in fabulous performances are Shayna McHayle as Danyelle and Haley Lu Richarson as Maci, the laid-back attitude of the former perfectly balancing the fun-loving and excessive enthusiasm of the latter.
While the characters are undoubtedly a sisterhood, the idea that Double Whammies can call itself a “family bar” is deeply disturbing, and Bujalski’s sharp screenplay injects every scene with a sly poke at American values. A man comments on the size of his wife’s breasts in front of the children. Maci flirts with a man old enough to be her grandpa. The picture certainly doesn’t shy away from difficult themes: on top of being routinely objectified, some of the characters must face up to the challenge of being proudly black in a systematically racist, white man’s society which apparently can’t cope with more than one person of colour on shift at once.
On the other side of the tracks (or, more accurately, the highway) looms the Man Cave, a conglomerate sports bar. Here, under legal guidelines, the rules are much clearer. But no one questions the idea that a line should need to be drawn in the first place. It’s the girls who are the stupid ones, given contracts so they can’t get into trouble. As every pointed shot makes clear, they are measured in paperwork, not personality, herded into auditions and judged on body image alone. As Lisa struggles to determine which is the lesser of two evils – being an undervalued individual or a branded commodity – Bujalski’s cynical realist commentary shines.
The film is equally complex when it comes to genre. Sitting on a knife’s edge between comedy and drama, just like its protagonist, you are never quite sure if the movie will crumble into a full-on breakdown. But Support the Girls puts on a brave face and makes light of the darkness, just like its cast of vivid characters.
Support the Girls does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2018 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.
Watch the trailer for Support the Girls here: