Review: Support the Girls

Movies, especially American movies, love characters who are ground down by the effort to just get by, and usually they are allowed some measure of triumph. Andrew Bujalski’s Support the Girls, which is set in a Hooters-type family restaurant in suburban Texas, is so dense with circumstance that the viewer doesn’t have time to parse whether the various people moving across the screen are getting by or triumphing. Though ostensibly a comedy, the laughs are so hard won that you almost feel guilty for being entertained.

Bujalski doesn’t give us a plot, but instead a structure within which various stories play out in pieces and segments. At the center is Lisa (Regina Hall), the manager of Double Whammies, who is serious about her work and her dedication not only to her customers, but to her employees—female servers who wear revealing clothing and understand why. For the most part they’re in their early 20s and know that they can make a lot in the way of tips by flaunting what they’ve got, but Lisa is protective and strict in this regard: She’ll boot a customer who “disrespects” her girls but she’ll also send a worker home if she goes over a certain line. In other words, Lisa is a real manager, but Bujalski is careful to balance her authoritarian bent with a conscientiousness born of bitter experience. “I can take fuckin’ up all day, but I can’t take no trying,” seems to be her abiding attitude toward labor, and the girls appreciate it, especially the veteran Danyelle (Shayna McHayle), whose attachment to the establishment is tentative—she might not come in on time if the babysitter is late and doesn’t care if she called out—but whose loyalty to Lisa is unequivocal. 

It’s the way Bujalski contrasts what goes on in the restaurant with what goes on outside of it that makes the movie unique, and the latter is mostly about Lisa’s struggles with the economy. During the day depicted, she has to take time off to visit rental properties that are probably out of her reach and then meet with the sleazy owner of Double Whammies (James Le Gros) who is not shy about slamming diversity if it even looks sideways at his bottom line; and he’s frankly getting sick of Lisa reminding him of his responsibilities. These scenes are simultaneously funny and painful to sit through, because you know they’re not at all funny for Lisa, and since Bujalski isn’t the kind of director who is here to make you feel good, you know he isn’t going to reward Lisa in the end with a happy ending, because those things just don’t happen. As matters at the restaurant spin out of control this funny-tragic dichotomy only intensifies. Support the Girls is a rare movie and an even rarer study of what most American workers have to put up with. You suffer every day but when you step outside yourself and look at the situation straight, you just gotta laugh.

Opens Oct. 7 in Tokyo at Shimokita Ekimae Cinema K2, Shimokitazawa.

Support the Girls trailer on YouTube

photo (c) 2018 Support The Girls LLC

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