Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Regina Hall, Haley Lu Richardson, Shayna McHayle, James LeGros, Dylan Gelula, AJ Michalka, Brooklyn Decker, Lea DeLaria, Jana Kramer, John Elvis
Written by: Andrew Bujalski
Directed by: Andrew Bujalski
MPAA Rating: R for language including sexual references, and brief nudity
Running Time: 90
Date: 08/24/2018
IMDB

Support the Girls (2018)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Serve Racking

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Following up his fine, but rather ordinary big budget (or bigger-budget) debut Results, the great indie filmmaker Andrew Bujalski — who is arguably the best of what was once labeled the "mumblecore" movement (Funny Ha Ha, Mutual Appreciation, etc.) — returns to something with a lower-budget feel. It also feels like a much better fit. Support the Girls takes place over the course of one frenzied day, but Bujalski's movie doesn't have a frenzied feel. When Lisa (Regina Hall), the general manager of a restaurant called "Double Whammies" tries to juggle all the challenges of her day, it's not all slapstick and manic energy. She handles some problems, struggles with others, gets frustrated, and occasionally takes time to sneak out behind the restaurant for a smoke or a cry.

She puts to work several new hires, all pretty girls who are required to wear short tops and short shorts (it's like a "Hooters" restaurant), and hosts a slightly illicit car wash to raise money for one of the girls who has been the victim of abuse. She asks her number one girl, Danyelle (Shayna McHayle) to flirt with the nearby sound-system guy to arrange to borrow speakers and music. The cable goes out, and one of her employees has attempted (and failed) at a robbery. Her boss, Cubby (James Le Gros) — who won't let more than one black girl work the same shift — gets mad in traffic and chases a bad driver with her in the passenger seat. And her husband is preparing to leave her.

Meanwhile, she must deal with customers that are rude to her girls, as well as too much flirting. One upbeat server in particular, Maci (Haley Lu Richardson), is extra-flirty with a sweet little old man, a regular. There's a lot of stuff going on, and Bujalski, who also wrote the screenplay, keeps it clear and honest. Each event occurs within a certain allotment of space, and there's room to breathe. Everything comes to a head much earlier than I might have expected, but the film keeps things going with a touching final act. These women have reached the end of their tether, but they have each other, and, with a little help from Maci, they have a something like a positive attitude.

But Support the Girls wouldn't be much more than a "bad day" comedy if not for its subtle commentary about race and sex, about being judged and valued only for looks (either skin color or body parts). When Lisa goes for a job interview at a similar restaurant, the interviewer is an older, pretty lady who was once a pretty server girl herself, and assumes Lisa was once, too. It seems like an endless cycle. But Lisa is special because she is the hero who actually looks after her girls as much as she can, until she reaches her limit. (She has some power, but not enough.) Hall is most impressive here; she is perhaps best known for lowbrow "urban" comedies (especially the Scary Movie series) in which she is usually an uptight, "straight" woman to someone funnier. In this, she truly spreads her wings her and gives a fully-rounded performance, touching and somewhat tragic, but fully lovable.

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