– By Sam Hendrian –
Won’t forget, can’t regret/What I did for love. So go the famous closing lyrics of the Marvin Hamlisch/Edward Kleban song “What I Did for Love” from the Broadway musical A Chorus Line. While these wistful words may seem nothing but beautiful at first glance, they bear a darker subtext upon further analysis. Just what exactly did the singer do for love? Was it genuine love or a mere substitute?
Such are the questions explored subtly but profoundly in the 2018 indie comedy Support the Girls. Starring Regina Hall as Lisa, the steadfastly warm-hearted and well-intentioned general manager of a Texas “breastaurant” called Double Whammies, it both humorously and hauntingly examines the “love substitutes” that people settle for on both the giving and the receiving ends. It also delivers an effective warning about the dangers that often belie good intentions.
Why would any woman want to work at a restaurant where they put on skimpy clothing and get ogled by men all day? When we first meet Maci (Haley Lu Richardson) and the other young women who come to work at Double Whammies, they stress great tips and sisterhood as the two answers to this reasonable question. But as we grow to know them a little better throughout the course of the film, it becomes clear that there is a third answer: they enjoy making people happy. Maci is a bundle of energy and then some, welcoming patrons of Double Whammies with the warmth of a Disney princess and frequently shouting/laughing with a contagious bubbliness. While she understands that none of the male patrons really value her for her bright personality or dignity as a person, she knows that many of them are lonely, and she feels an almost motherly urge to soothe their loneliness with a little female attention.
The manager Lisa is also motivated by a similar sense of compassion. She does not view her employees as pawns for exploitation but rather as perpetrators of perkiness in an often dark and unsatisfying world. All of the women at Double Whammies love her like a mother, as do many of the regular patrons. In her mind, a woman’s sexual charms can be a vehicle for neighborly love and kindness as long as they are used with proper discretion. After all, Double Whammies is supposed to be a family-friendly restaurant.
But what exactly is the meaning of “family-friendly?” This concept grows increasingly gray as the film progresses, especially when a pending new hire named Jennelle (Dylan Gelula) begins to act like she is working in a strip club. Lisa’s intentions are seemingly so pure; she simply wants to foster an environment in which both the workers and the patrons feel good about themselves. Yet as she has a troubled conversation with her porn-addicted husband, meets with a former employee who refuses to end a destructive relationship, and finds the definition of “family-friendly” bended in every direction at the restaurant, she begins to realize that good intentions do not always reap good results. In fact, sometimes they have disastrous consequences.
Some people feel deprived of love on the receiving end, while others feel deprived on the giving end. Lisa and Maci are perhaps bereft of both, but what they experience most achingly is a longing to put smiles on the faces of others, especially those who seem sad and lonely. This is a natural human desire rooted in noble intentions, but when it takes advantage of Man’s fallen nature rather than his capacity for virtue, it can only go so far. The smiles sparked at Double Whammies are all fleeting, as they spawn from the simulation of affection rather than the true experience of it. Self-sacrifice and commitment are absent, and without these two essential components, real love cannot exist.
In the film’s final scene, Lisa’s sassy friend Danyelle (Shayna McHayle) facetiously tells her, “You’re an angel sent from heaven to show the rest of us what a good attitude looks like. And for lonely old men to jerk-off to. God sent you here for that too.” Her eyes briefly flashing a deep sadness and sense of greater purpose, Lisa replies, “No, He didn’t.” This sincere reply forms the crux of what the movie is subtly trying to tell young women and all human beings:
You are a person of immeasurable dignity and priceless value, and you are made for a Love that is lasting and pure, not fleeting and artificial.
About the Author
Sam Hendrian is a student at John Paul the Great Catholic University (Class of 2019) pursuing a double emphasis in Screenwriting and Directing.