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Documentary 'Served Like a Girl' joins women vets as they empower themselves at a pageant

Documentary 'Served Like a Girl' joins women vets as they empower themselves at a pageant
The documentary "Served Like a Girl" focuses on the challenges facing female veterans. (Adam Sternberg)

The tremendously affecting documentary "Served Like a Girl," directed by Lysa Heslov, takes as its subject an event that may be niche but contains a much larger cultural significance. The Ms. Veteran America pageant features female vets embracing their feminine side in gorgeous gowns, but the true purpose of the pageant is so much more than glitz and glamour.

Founded by Army vet Jas Boothe, the pageant is a platform to bring support and awareness to homeless female veterans. It's an experience she lived through, finding that there was a severe lack of support at Veterans Affairs for female veterans with children, who are estimated to number 50,000 in the U.S.

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"Served Like a Girl" follows a group of finalists in their journey, including Rachel, a former NFL cheerleader and Navy nurse; Hope, a rockabilly pinup model struggling with homelessness and family issues; and Marissa, a host and former contestant, who received a Purple Heart in Iraq after losing her legs to an IED.

Heslov and co-writer Tchavdar Georgiev masterfully unspool the dramatic tales of these women's experiences with deep pathos and welcome humor. The women have endured injury, illness, death, divorce, broken families and so much more with dignity, grace and military-honed grit. When they hit the stage in their gowns and glitter, it's a triumphant moment, a celebration of each woman for surviving and thriving in a world that isn't always the easiest or most welcoming for women. A truly inspirational, emotional and profoundly moving film.

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‘Served Like a Girl’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 43 minutes

Playing: ArcLight Santa Monica; Laemmle Playhouse 7, Pasadena

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