Support the Girls takes place over one rather manic, emotional and frustrating day as sports bar manager Lisa (Regina Hall) has the limits of her mother hen feelings towards her staff severely tested, as she tries to deal with one crisis after another.
The bar Lisa manages is a family-friendly sports bar where the waitresses wear very little clothing and the clientele get to look but not touch. As the manager of this group, Lisa sets the limits from the outset. Be friendly. Smile. But no inappropriate touching and if they’re rude or inappropriate with you then they’re out. Of course, just because the rules are in place, doesn’t mean they’ll be followed. And it isn’t long before Lisa starts to just question why she’s bothering at all.
For much of the film, Support the Girls has such a realistic style, it almost veers into feeling like you’re watching a documentary. Scenes unfold, slowly and plausibly, with very human reactions, interactions and discussions along the way. There are numerous scenes that show rather than tell you the many different ways women have learned to protect themselves, or to put up with appalling behaviour. In some, it goes the opposite way, with women acting overly sexual because that’s what they think they should be doing to get attention and tips. And the question is there, quietly in the background, as to whether these behaviours are chosen or learned along the way.
There is plenty of nuance to Support the Girls, largely because it raises questions and discussion topics about gender roles, the male gaze and sexuality without actually giving viewers definitive answers. You’ll agree and support decisions along the way just as much as you’ll disagree with them. But it’s the choices themselves, and the characters making them, that make the film interesting.
Support the Girls is intriguing and thoughtful and has phenomenal performances, especially from Hall and Haley Lu Richardson. The cast overall do superb work with the material, making you not just feel for the characters but want to befriend them, too. However, this slower style means that the story itself is just a bit quiet and the end result is not as engaging as it could have been.