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  Support the Girls Tip Your Waitress
Year: 2018
Director: Andrew Bujalski
Stars: Regina Hall, Haley Lu Richardson, Shayna McHale, James LeGros, Dylan Gelula, Zoe Graham, Ann LeuVoy, Elizabeth Trieu, Krista Hayes, Lawrence Varnado, Lea DeLaria, Christopher Weimer, Jermichael Grey, Jesse Marshall, Luis Olmeda, John Elvis
Genre: Comedy, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Lisa (Regina Hall) starts the day crying, but has to pull herself together to meet the needs of her profession, a manager of a restaurant that caters for a male clientele by only hiring attractive young women as serving staff, and dressing them up in skimpy clothing all the better to attract and keep them as customers. But there's nothing sleazy about this, her boss (James LeGros) insists, and she tends to buy that line if it keeps her in employment as well as her waitresses, recruiting them today meaning she reassures them they are not being hired as sex objects when that is exactly what they are there for. Today will be more challenging than any other day, as Lisa has too much to juggle...

No, that's not a euphemism, as while most of the female characters walked through this movie with their midriffs, legs and cleavages well on display, it utterly refused to regard them as anything less than human beings with all the complications that went with that. Complications that make our heroine ponder whether her compassion and need to mother everyone around her are actually doing her any good, or are making her life worse, for this was one of those twenty-tens efforts that painted a bleak picture for the normal people in the world simply trying to get through their days without being landed in yet another crisis and resist the temptation to break down in tears.

Lisa has fallen at the first hurdle as far as that goes, when we meet her she is wiping at her eyes while ensuring her makeup does not run, but she is the sort of person the phrase "put on a brave face" was designed for, especially when she feels the burden of all those who rely upon her. It hardly needed emphasising, but Hall was superb in what amounted to a showcase for her abilities, rendering Lisa as one of the most believable protagonists in a drama of the decade, you were convinced she had a life before the film began and would continue navigating various pitfalls long after the end credits rolled, and that was a major part of why she was immensely sympathetic.

Even if the moral Lisa must learn is, look, you can't do everything, you cannot help everyone who crosses your path, for a start some people are beyond saving, and furthermore many folk have to make their own mistakes and learn from them to become capable and self-reliant. No, not everyone will end up as well-balanced as her, but they will not put themselves through as much heartache as Lisa either, if they are lucky. A telling subplot has her corralling the waitresses to a car wash for charity, the charity actually a fund to pay one ex-staff member's legal bills for running over her useless boyfriend: the resolution of this helps to make up her mind that none of what she is putting herself through is just not worth it, and neither will she propagate self-destructive behaviour, her own or others'.

Support the Girls was written and directed by former mumblecore expert Andrew Bujalski, here less mumbly but perhaps less ambitious thematically than one of his previous efforts, Computer Chess. Nevertheless, he displayed the same perception when it came to human nature, it was more grounded in reality and less affected in the fantastical, which was fair enough if a shade disappointing for those who hoped he would pursue material even more cosmic. What made up for that were the sketches of the personalities around the already strong Lisa: she tries to be as optimistic as waitress Macy (Haley Lu Richardson) and fend off the pessimism of waitress Danyelle (Shayna McHale) but finds herself plonked right in the middle, dealing with issues where nothing seems trivial, effectively brewing crises around every corner if she cannot cope. Richardson in particular as the sunniest of the staff was the standout after Hall, ensuring that we did not leave thinking the world was quite as bad as either it is, or some would have us believe. Ostensibly a comedy, it wasn't that funny, but as a drama it succeeded.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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