Dignity can be almost impossible to find these days.
In filmmaker Andrew Bujalski’s new film “Support the Girls,” Regina Hall’s main character, Lisa Conroy, showcases this truth when she begins her day as a general manager at Double Whammies by crying in the safety of her car. When her cry is interrupted by her cheerful, upbeat coworker Maci, played by Haley Lu Richardson, Lisa collects herself and begins her shift.
Double Whammies is a Twin Peaks style sports bar and restaurant where the televisions are big, the beer is cold and the waitresses do not wear much. Lisa lays out the rules of the place to new interviewees, who promptly are asked to start work that day as the restaurant is short on staff. She then goes through her day from crisis to crisis.
Her problems begin when the air conditioning breaks in the midst of a sweltering Texas summer, and when Lisa investigates the cause, she finds that a burglar got trapped in the air conditioning duct the night before in an attempt to break into the restaurant’s safe. Lisa then has to call the cops while simultaneously keeping the mess hidden from the paying customers.
The situation adds a complication when the burglar is discovered to be the cousin of cook Arturo, one of Lisa’s best workers. In order to protect him from legal trouble and the wrath of Whammies’ brutish owner Ben Cubby, played by James Le Gros, she lies to the police that she does not recognize the intruder, and she informs Arturo that he must quit at the end of the day. Lisa’s affection for Arturo is evident, and the scene illustrates the balancing act many managers serve between the interests of the establishment and the interests of their employees.
During the film, the waitresses of Double Whammies holds a car wash behind Cubby’s back in order to raise money for former waitress Shaina, played by Jana Kramer of “One Tree Hill” fame, who is in trouble of her own involving her toxic and abusive boyfriend.
Lisa’s love for her employees is the driving force behind her character as she tries her best to give them dignity, even in the most undignified of situations. Her strength does not derive itself from being an invulnerable world beater, but from being a vulnerable person who opens herself up to others and in turn, allows other people to open up to her.
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Lisa is the foundation and bedrock of Double Whammies, even though it is the racist, sexist redneck Ben Cubby whose name is on the deed.
Regina Hall is an absolute force in this film as she maps out her character’s entire inner life with side glances and subtle actions. She displays a talent for anchoring a film that she had not previously gotten a chance to showcase previously.
Richardson, who broke out as a major face in indie cinema with her performance in Kogonada’s “Columbus,” is also her usual brilliant self, playing a character described by another as “an angel sent from heaven to show the rest of us what a good attitude looks like.”
Available to rent on iTunes, “Support the Girls” is something special — a comedy with heart and soul-searching honesty.
By the time Hall, Richardson and Shayna McHale are unleashing a joyful, cathartic scream into the wind at film’s end, viewers will be left with a big smile on their faces and perhaps even scream along with these girls, a few tears in their eyes.
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