“Support the Girls” covers just one day at Double Whammies, a Texas sports bar staffed with scantily clad waitresses and led by a long-beleaguered den mother of a manager. That’s it. And it’s nearly perfect.
“Support the Girls” both immediately enters the pantheon of great service-industry comedies and offers a fairly pointed critique of late capitalism in the process. And it does it all with a loose plot and a laid-back charm that recalls the work of Richard Linklater. (The film’s Texas setting doesn’t hurt the comparison.)
If “Support the Girls” is an ensemble comedy, it’s one that stays pretty close to Regina Hall. She plays Lisa, Double Whammies’ general manager. Lisa is deeply protective of the girls who work for her, the kind of boss who holds an on-the-sly car wash in the restaurant parking lot so she can raise money for a waitress who’s run into some trouble.
Double Whammies sees a lot of fast turnover, obviously, but Lisa has nonetheless forged strong relationships with the bubbly Maci (Haley Lu Richardson) and surly Danyelle (Shayne McHayle).
In fact, Lisa is too close to the girls. The restaurant’s skeezy owner (James Le Gros) tells her she needs to stop looking out for the young women and start focusing more on running his business.
Over the course of one fairly eventful day, Lisa deals with an overnight burglary, a few rude customers and a dodgy cable connection that might prevent their customers from getting to watch the big fight while eating chicken wings.
As written and directed by mumblecore auteur Andrew Bujalski, “Support the Girls” is so effortlessly breezy and funny that it’s easy to miss what it really is: a howl of despair.
Like a lot of people working in the service industry, this movie keeps a smile on its face even though it’s pissed off at everything.
Double Whammies operates on a sexually exploitative business model — and a racist one, with Lisa not allowed to have more than one black waitress working any particular shift. (It makes the customers uncomfortable.) Later in the movie, a white waitress is fired for getting a tattoo of Steph Curry’s face on her stomach. The image of a black man’s face on a white woman’s belly, Lisa tells her, would just be too much for the regulars to handle.
As Lisa, Hall gives the kind of quiet, grounded performance that, in a better world, would get Oscar consideration. She gets to play the perfect middle manager: tough but loving with her staff, shielding them from the higher-ups, and catching flak from all sides in the process.
Despite the indignities the girls face, Double Whammies is still an OK place to work, thanks to Lisa. Her warmth and her concern for the girls makes them a makeshift family of sorts.
But families, particularly families forged in the greasy crucible of a Texas “breastaurant,” can always be torn apart by larger forces. “Support the Girls” is a fun and entertaining film, no doubt. But it ends exactly the way it should — with three women screaming in futile rage.