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Support the Girls

Magnolia Home Entertainment // R // December 4, 2018
List Price: $27.33 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Tyler Foster | posted January 9, 2019 | E-mail the Author
It's time to open Double Whammies, a Hooters-style sports bar featuring young women dressed in Daisy Dukes and crop-top tee-shirts, and there's a would-be heist man stuck in the air vents, the cable TV isn't working -- crucial for the customers who come in to watch sports events, and one of the waitstaff is in legal and financial hot water after running over an abusive boyfriend with her truck. Yet, the unflappable manner in which Lisa (Regina Hall) greets with each emerging crisis suggests that everything will be okay. Lisa's even keel is impressive, especially given that the bar's largely scummy owner Cubby (James LeGros) isn't likely to offer Lisa much more in the way of further promotional opportunities, especially with a competitor called Mancave building one of their corporate chain restaurants nearby. But Lisa isn't driven by the job itself: it's her crew of spirited young women, including sunny Maci (Haley Lu Richardson) and wry, sharply observant Danyelle (Shayna McHayle), that keeps her going.

Writer/director Andrew Bujalski, whose previous resume includes such films as the indie fitness comedy Results and the perplexing low-fi competition/convention nightmare Computer Chess, has crafted a naturalistic and quietly incisive comedy about the never-ending battle that Lisa faces between the corporate system she needs to operate in to keep her job and basic human compassion. There's no question that Lisa wants to do the right thing, both for the restaurant and the staff that look up to her, but figuring out what constitutes "the right thing" when her job is built a business model that intentionally stakes out the gray area between exploiting and protecting the ladies who work there (not to mention the corporate grind and modern American sexual politics in general) is harder than it looks.

Bujalski declines to take a traditional plot-driven approach, adopting a loose narrative style that trusts the audience to pick up on themes and commentary on Double Whammies and Lisa's challenges that quietly accumulate rather than constructing traditional arcs. At the same time, his screenplay still manages to tie up all of its loose ends, bringing B-threads such as the robber in the vent to a neat resolution without much emphasis or even an expectation that certain aspects of it will be resolved. The film is almost entirely centered around a single day at Double Whammies, from before open to a climactic close, with an epilogue on the end. In addition to the vent guy, the TVs, and her vengeful employee, Lisa is welcoming a crop of would-be employees to the floor for a test shift. For the legal defense, she concocts an impromptu fundraising car wash in the restaurant parking lot, and on top of everything else, she's juggling her own personal problems with a grumpy ex (Lawrence Varnado).

In lieu of plot, the performances drive the film, with most of the responsibility falling on Hall, Richardson, and McHayle's shoulders. The three of them have an authentically communal vibe, with Hall playing the slightly weary mother figure who largely likes and sympathizes with her younger employees even if she doesn't agree with their specific actions. All three women are sharply drawn: Maci's cheery, perpetually optimistic sweetness (which in no way suggests naivete or cluelessness), Danyelle's deadpan cynicism that only lightens in the face of Lisa's determination, and Lisa's simultaneous willingness to do whatever's necessary to keep the restaurant running smoothly for another day and contradictory sense that she could still be doing more. Their personalities are not only flavor that helps ground the film in reality, but a concoction that helps drive the movie's story forward, an impressive juggling act that Bujalski practically accomplishes on the sly.

The film is also blessed with a fun supporting cast, including Lea DeLaria as a warm and devoted regular named Bobo, John Elvis as a dorky speaker-store employee who has eyes for Danyelle, Brooklyn Decker as an employee of Mancave, and James LeGros as Lisa's boss Cubby. Cubby is another reflection of the film's story, a man who walks the line between being an obnoxious ass and surprisingly agreeable, an arrogant egomaniac and a realist. Through these contradictions, Bujalski cannily reinforces his illustration of a real-world conflict that can't be resolved without completely changing the system, something that the characters don't have the means to break themselves out of. At once helpless and sympathetic, Support the Girls is like a warm hug in a sea of despair, one that can't fix the ails of the world but can temporarily lighten the load.

The Blu-ray
Support the Girls comes to Blu-ray with a version of its original poster artwork intact, featuring Shayna McHale's Danyelle and Haley Lu Richardson's Maci standing on the bar behind Regina Hall's Lisa. On the poster, the artwork was covered in large block pull quotes, whereas on the Blu-ray the text is gone. The one-disc release comes in an eco-friendly Blu-ray case, and there is no insert.

The Video and Audio
Magnolia serves up Support the Girls with a 1.78:1 1080p AVC video presentation and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio presentation that have no issues rendering this digitally shot 2018 release with excellent crispness and clarity. The film boasts a natural, unaltered look with vibrant colors and excellent fine detail. Depth is impressive and no issues with banding or artifacting crop up. Sound is pretty straightforward, with the dialogue-heavy film offering up the atmosphere of a busy and/or riled-up sports bar as the biggest challenge, which the track handles with ease. English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing and Spanish subtitles are also provided.

The Extras
Sadly, none. A commentary by Bujalski and some of the cast (at least Hall, McHale, and Richardson) would've been great, but all that's on offer is pre-menu trailers for Skate Kitchen, Bad Reputation, and The Guilty, plus promos for The Charity Network and axsTV (which can also be accessed via the main menu).

Support the Girls is a winning, relatable comedy that looks at the corporate, capitalist struggle and genuine sense of family underpinning an average workday at a Hooters-like sports bar. Magnolia's Blu-ray is technically impressive, but really could've used one good disc-based extra to make it worth it to pick up the physical release. Recommended.

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