Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
SUPPORT THE GIRLS
Service industry workers are the backbone of this country. Over the years, it’s a workforce with which cinema has been obsessed. From ALICE DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE (which spurred the sitcom ALICE), to MYSTIC PIZZA, to WAITING, to WAITRESS (which spurred a musical), it takes insight and talent to serve up relatable portrayals. Writer-director Andrew Bujalski’s SUPPORT THE GIRLS is a slice-of-life cinematic rendering that plops the audience into the fray of an eight-hour floor shift, making us care intensely for a hard-working bunch of gals. It’s a soul-warming, endearing and entertaining piece of work.
Lisa (Regina Hall) is a harried manager of a freeway-adjacent sports bar and grill. She takes pride in her work – even if she is more married to the job than her long-suffering husband Cameron (Lawrence Varnado). It’s just too bad some of her clientele don’t respect the rules. Not only does she fret over the dignity of the establishment, she’s also overly invested in her employees’ lives, micro-managing almost every aspect, which gets her into hot water with boss Cubby (James LeGros). One day, Lisa’s perfectly imperfect balance all comes crashing down when an employee (Jana Kramer) gets herself into some legal troubles and they find a robber stuck in the restaurant’s air vents. The thwarted robbery sets off a chain of tiny disasters that culminate in a reckoning for Lisa and her staff.
The protective, fierce spirit of these strong female characters is entrancing. Lisa’s faults can also be her greatest strengths. While that seems a trite lesson to be learned, the way Bujalski and the ensemble work up to that hugely emotional payoff feels genuinely earned. Maci (Haley Lu Richardson) and Danyelle (Shayna McHayle) are the perfect complementary caring souls, demonstrating compassion in action – specifically the blessing of giving and receiving it. It’s impossible not to feel heartened seeing women helping and lifting up other women.
It seems like this is the type of set where everyone down the line showed up with their big hearts wide open. This quality oozes from the screen through the performances from the cast, but also from behind the camera. Richardson plays her sweet, supportive spitfire with effervescent gusto, adding a depth to her character’s hospitable Southern charm. McHayle is a grounding, sensible force, augmenting the ensemble’s likability, but also giving it pathos. Hall delivers a career best. We’re used to seeing her deliver punchlines that gut us with either laughter or tears. Here, she’s able to blend the two adeptly, showing off her inherent wit and vibrancy. Her subtlety and restraint are terrific – made possible by the material, allowing her valuable moments to shine.
The world Bujalski shapes is not just one that espouses deep sentiments about female camaraderie, but also one that acts as a shot in the heart to humanity.
SUPPORT THE GIRLS opens on August 24.