SUPPORT THE GIRLS
Positioned as a "big-hearted comedy," Support the Girls is much more than what the phrase and the film's setup suggests. It's a comedic drama that addresses serious issues without polemicizing and it features an outstanding performance by Regina Hall (also on the big screen in The Hate U Give). Film scholar and critic Alissa Wilkinson at Vox.com deftly conveys the essence and importance of this film, excerpted below.
Support the Girls is a barely concealed double entendre of a title for a film set in an even less coy Hooters-style bar called Double Whammies. Every day, the waitresses – pretty girls in crop tops and cutoffs – serve beer and wings to the mostly male clientele, though Double Whammies insists it's a family-friendly "mainstream" place. "It's like working at Chili's or Applebees," one of the veteran waitresses tells a new girl, "but the tips are way better."
But Support the Girls is not at all the winkingly misogynist raunch-com for dudes that set-up might imply. Starting out as a workplace comedy featuring a sparkling female ensemble, the movie – set mostly over a single day – morphs into an affecting, startlingly insightful depiction of the bone-weary work of being a woman in a man's world.
It's a feminist movie, to be sure, but not a self-congratulatory one. It's easy to imagine an optimistic, rah-rah girl-power version of Support the Girls, but this is decidedly not that. For a lot of women trying to just earn a living, Hollywood-style empowerment takes a back seat to staying employed and keeping everyone around them at work and at home happy, boyfriends and bosses alike.
The result is a film that rings bitingly true, but respects its audience enough to let them connect the dots themselves. It's funny and smart, but never wields its insights like a badge of honor. If anything, it's an apology to its own characters for what women like them encounter all the time – one that sometimes bares some wincingly sharp teeth.
Lisa (Regina Hall, in an outstanding performance) is the backbone of Double Whammies, and also of Support the Girls. For many of the girls who work at the bar, Lisa is an almost motherly figure: She listens to their problems, offers advice, gently keeps them in line, and ferociously throws men out of the restaurant who disrespect the women who work there. Her boss (James Le Gros) obviously doesn't give her nearly enough credit.
And Lisa's day isn't just filled with keeping customers happy. She has to call the cable company to fix the TV before the big fight is on that night. She needs to train new waitresses and warn friendly, bubbly Maci (Haley Lu Richardson) away from one customer. She haggles over schedules and looks after the son of a waitress, Danyelle (Shayna McHayle), whose child care plan falls through. She goes to see an apartment for her deeply depressed husband (Lawrence Varnado), from whom she's separating. And along with the black staff, she tries to ignore their employer's casual racism.
As the day wears on toward the big fight that evening – and the increased tips that will go along with it – the girls of Double Whammies navigate problems like Lisa's, hoping to get to the end of the day and making the best of whatever situations they're handed. Good humor (or backhanded wit) keeps them chugging along; the customers expect it, after all. But everyone, eventually, has a breaking point.
In Support the Girls, the girls have to support themselves
Lisa's day is basically a living illustration of accruing a thousand mosquito bites: None of the small individual irritations will kill you, but the small indignities and problems quickly add up to become unbearable. The individual happenings aren't as significant as the sense that Lisa is being punished for the very qualities that make her a stellar friend and manager: her capability, her cheerfulness, her responsibility. She should be grateful, it's implied, and she definitely should not complain when people take advantage of her.
And that mentality, Support the Girls suggests, is what keeps a place like Double Whammies (or the identical chain restaurant moving in nearby, called "Mancave") in business. Each of the women have their own set of similar issues, and they're all trying to cope in their own ways. The movie gives them moments to triumph – but the day will still, when it's all over, end on a melancholy note.
Bujalski's touch is light, and Hall's deeply empathetic performance alongside secondary characters like Richardson's and McHayle's makes the whole thing feel authentic; you could almost believe you were watching a documentary in some spots.
But the issues that structure the film are serious. Support the Girls acknowledges that casual sexual harassment is, for many young women working for tips, just an accepted part of the job, something to be accepted. It shows how some workplaces and corporations pride themselves on "diversity" initiatives while actually just doing the bare minimum to escape scrutiny for racial discrimination.
Being a working single mother, paying for medical care without adequate insurance, encountering stereotypes about black women, catering to the whims of a clientele that likes to see you suffer a little – all of this comes into the film.
Yet that's not really the movie's point. This isn't an exposé or a screed or even a socially conscious neorealist film. These are just the realities of the workplace, like lots of others, and they're the film's setup. The real story of Support the Girls is that, in the end, the only people the girls can depend on for support is themselves.
And so, in the end, they do. "Girl power" is too strong a word, but the movie is cathartic all the same. The ways they support one another have little to do with performative feminism and everything to do with love. If they're not going to be respected by the people around them, at least, in the end, they can do that for one another.
Alissa Wilkinson is Vox's film critic. She's been writing about film and culture since 2006, and her work has appeared at Rolling Stone, The Washington Post, Vulture, RogerEbert.com, The Atlantic, Books & Culture, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Paste, Pacific Standard, and others. Alissa is a member of the New York Film Critics Circle and a 2017-18 Art of Nonfiction writing fellow with the Sundance Institute. Before joining Vox, she was the chief film critic at Christianity Today.
☀ SUPPORT THE GIRLS, director Andrew Bujalski, USA, 2018, 90 minutes.
☀ DATES & TIMES:
Monday, November 12, 2018, 7 PM
Venue opens 6:15; seating at 6:30.
Late arrivals will be seated at management discretion.
the newly renovated GARFIELD THEATRE, 719 Race St, Cincinnati 45202. – Learn more
☀ PARKING & DIRECTIONS:
Parking Options Google Map Drone View
Ample parking at affordable rates — 1,700+ garage spaces within two blocks ‐ Gramercy Garage (next door, enter via Race, 7th or Elm streets), Garfield Garage (9th St., next to the Phoenix) and Macy's Garage (7th Street). Another 363 surface lot spaces within a couple blocks, plus numerous on-street meters.
Other transport options include the Street Car, Metro, Tank, Uber, Red Bike, etc.
Ticket prices for the film are:
Adult general admission, $10 advance, $15 door.
Student/ArtsPass general admission, $8 advance, $12 door — must show valid ID upon arrival.
☀ ADA ACCESS: We have completely revamped and improved ADA access, with a direct path to wheelchair spaces and companion seats (no ramps, no stairs). Individuals using walkers or wheelchairs should call ahead to let us know your screening date and time, (859) 957-3456.
☀ DINING & LIBATIONS:
It couldn't be easier — across the street from the Garfield, you'll find the Butcher & Barrel, home of delicious shareables, salads, entrees and desserts, plus excellent wine, craft beer and mixed drinks. General Manager Randy Procter is offering CWC patrons an inaugural 15% discount on your order, excluding alcohol.
You'll need your online ticket purchase confirmation or ticket stub from the event. Discount valid only for the date on your ticket.
Enjoy a pre- or post-film meal or coffee and dessert, or hang at the bar.
Hours: TUE-THS - Dining, 5-10 pm; bar 3:30 - midnight. FRI-SAT - Dining 5-11 pm; bar 3:30 - 2:30. SUN - Dining 5-9 pm; bar 3:30 - 1-pm. Dinner reservations are recommended. Check out the menus and photos: thebutcherbarrel.com.