It's not polished, but Lysa Heslov's documentary fully celebrates the courage of its featured women -- more off the battlefield than on -- and the result is a strong, teary, heartfelt film. Served Like a Girl interviews Army veteran Jaspen Boothe, who founded the Ms. Veteran America competition, as well as its first winner, Air Force vet Denyse Gordon. It focuses on five new contestants for the 2015 crown, including Navy vet Hope Garcia, who suffered sexual assaults, was homeless, and shares custody of her children with her ex-husband. Army vet Marissa Strock lost her lower legs but still loves shopping for shoes, even though she can't wear her favorite sparkly high heels. Navy vet Rachel Engler was a former NFL cheerleader and fell ill after her service with a chronic neuromuscular illness but continued with her love of dancing.
Heslov interviews the women in casual settings -- just hanging out in doorways or in kitchens, with no artificial "talking heads." That allows Army vet Nichole Alred's mother, a strong supporter of her daughter, to becomes a colorful character as well. The women's stories could easily inspire outrage, but, at the same time, they're also amazing, tragic, and awe-inspiring.