×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Support the Girls’

Andrew Bujalski's dramedy about a tacky T&A restaurant serves up a terrific leading role for Regina Hall.

Director:
Andrew Bujalski
With:
Regina Hall, Haley Lu Richardson, Shayna McHayle, James LeGros, Dylan Gelula, AJ Michalka, Brooklyn Decker, Lea DeLaria, Jana Kramer, John Elvis.

1 hour 33 min.

Every shift, breastaurant manager Lisa (an outstanding Regina Hall) tries to stay perky. The title of Andrew Bujalski’s big-hearted comedy “Support the Girls” winks at the waitresses’ hoisted money-makers and the hardest part of Lisa’s job: tending to her busty, fragile employees. Whose smile is fading, whose kid is sick, who just put her abusive boyfriend in the hospital, and who’s crying cause a biker just called her fat. Double Whammies’ Rule No. 1, “NO DRAMA” with all-caps emphasis, goes ignored, especially by its screaming, bullying owner Cubby (James Le Gros), a tyrant with a wimpy mustache, who forces Lisa to obey his Rainbow Policy of scheduling only one black woman per shift.

Hall’s pragmatic, but unforgiving response to the racist rule is a 200-proof distillation of Bujalski’s toast to working-class women who make the best of bad options. Sure, the ladies are the supposed stars of this dive with its cheesy, greasy glop, but when maniacal bobblehead Maci (Haley Lu Richardson) stands on the bar to raise a beer for sisterhood, the customers stay focused on their fries. “Support the Girls” gives them the spotlight they’ve earned.

The film opens with the wheeze of exhaust from the cars chugging past on the freeway, then tinny country music that will hum steadily through the end credits. We’re in Texas, after all, and some stereotypes have to be honored. Last, we hear the quiet sob of Lisa squeezing in a quick parking-lot cry before opening the restaurant, which gets interrupted by a knock on her window.

“Haaaaay!” Hall beams with forced cheer. Nobody needs her grief on top on their own, and from the moment she steps out of her worn sedan, she’s in motion solving everyone else’s problems. “You are the wind beneath my buffalo wings,” coos waitress Danyelle (Shayna McHale), a dorky joke that her character knows is a groaner when she says it.

Where Lisa is upbeat and active, Danyelle is still and suspicious — an acquired flavor — who reluctantly agrees to flirt with a sound-system salesman (John Elvis) next door so they can borrow his speakers for a charity car wash. The fundraiser isn’t illegal, exactly, but it’s the kind of overly generous impulse that could get Lisa fired if Cubby found out.

Lisa’s on her feet, and her phone, continuously, a pace so exhausting that Bujalski carves out moments for her to just be. The tone is at once rambling and relentless. After a string of calls to get the cable turned back on before the night’s televised fight, she takes 30 seconds to sit on a curb and stare at a bird. Later, a solo bowl of soup in her apartment has the eerie peace of a tomb. She’s enduring all of this chaos for this moment, the financial independence to live alone after separating from her depressive husband (Lawrence Varnado). “Sad dudes is my business,” she tells her soon-to-be ex. She’d rather not spend her off-hours dealing with them, too.

Bujalski divides the world into women versus men, and then divides it again between the sane and the screw-ups. “Support the Girls” goes easy on the guys, who are mostly seen as messy, easily manipulated fools, while deadbeats of both genders get it with both barrels — or as Lisa sighs, “I can take fucking up all day, but I can’t take not trying.” Bujalski also observes the social divide that makes Lisa pick these blue collar burger-eaters over the rich folks she used to serve at her former steakhouse. At least here, she can kick the jerks out — and when she enforces Double Whammies’ zero-tolerance sexual harassment policy, satisfaction rippled through the theater.

A few moments flop like wet napkins, including a throwaway bit about Maci’s secret boyfriend and a recurring joke with a confetti gun that just makes you wonder which girl’s gotta sweep up the mess. No matter. Lisa would simply power on, and she does as Hall’s performance — tender, tough, empathetic, controlled — crumples from tears to laughter in a blink. It’s phenomenal, and even in her character’s small triumphs, she never lets the audience forget that women like Lisa have long since stopped hoping for a Hollywood-style happy ending. Instead, her victory comes when she stays home and lets Cubby see how Double Whammies wobbles without her. Sometimes the best revenge is doing nothing at all.

Film Review: 'Support the Girls'

Reviewed at SXSW Film Festival (Narrative Spotlight), March 9, 2018. 93 MIN.

Production: A Magnolia Pictures release of a Burn Later Productions presentation of a Slater Films, Houston King production. Producers: Houston King, Sam Slater. Co-producer: Rowan Riley. Executive producers: Jonathan Fryd, Scott Carmel, Paul Bernon, David Bernon, Susan Kirr.

Crew: Director, writer: Andrew Bujalski. Camera (color): Matthias Grunsky. Editor: Karen Skloss.

With: Regina Hall, Haley Lu Richardson, Shayna McHayle, James LeGros, Dylan Gelula, AJ Michalka, Brooklyn Decker, Lea DeLaria, Jana Kramer, John Elvis.

More Film

  • Midnight Traveler review

    Film Review: 'Midnight Traveler'

    Refugees rarely get to tell their own stories, which means their stories get told for them — often inaccurately and with undue hostility. Lack of resources is one issue, but a lack of stability is another: Asylum-seekers are in a frightening state of limbo, fleeing the imminent dangers of their native countries only to suffer [...]

  • WGA Authorizing Managers, Lawyers to Make

    WGA Authorizing Managers, Lawyers to Make Deals if Agents are Fired

    The Writers Guild of America has authorized managers and lawyers to negotiate deals for writers in place of agents — if the guild tells members to fire their agents on April 7. The guild’s negotiating committee notified members of the plans in a message Wednesday. The WGA and the Association of Talent Agents having made [...]

  • Gone With the Wind Screening

    Film News Roundup: 'Gone With the Wind' Sets Event Cinema Record

    In today’s film news roundup, “Gone with the Wind” sets a new record, “Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles” is acquired, and Tracy Oliver signs with Topic Studios. EVENT CINEMA RECORD More Reviews Film Review: 'Midnight Traveler' Film Review: ‘Made in Abyss: Journey’s Dawn’ The 80th anniversary release of “Gone with the Wind” has grossed $2.23 [...]

  • Made in Abyss - Journey’s Dawn

    Film Review: ‘Made in Abyss: Journey’s Dawn’

    It’s a Herculean effort to take a multi-volume manga like author Akihito Tsukushi’s “Made in Abyss,” adapt it into a popular anime television series, and then compress the show into a coherent feature (technically, two movies), but the folks at Sentai Filmworks have done just that. Part one, “Made in Abyss: Journey’s Dawn,” will screen [...]

  • HAF: 'Assassination,' 'Apprenticeship' Named Project Market

    HAF: 'Assassination,' 'Apprenticeship' Named Project Market Winners

    Eighteen prizes were presented on Wednesday afternoon at the closing ceremony of the Hong Kong Asia Film Financing Forum. The project market sits alongside FilMart as part of the Entertainment Expo in Hong Kong. “Wong Tai Sin Assassination” to be directed by Wong Hoi and produced by Derek Kwok Tsz-kin, was named the winner of [...]

  • Contract Placeholder Business WGA ATA Agent

    Writers Guild Makes Concession on Film Financing in Agent Talks

    The Writers Guild of America has made a concession in film financing in its negotiations with Hollywood talent agents — the second in six weeks of talks. WGA West executive director David Young said Wednesday that it had made a “significant move” toward reaching a deal with the Association of Talent Agents for a revamped [...]

  • Noah Centineo He-Man

    Noah Centineo to Play He-Man in 'Masters of the Universe' Reboot

    From a boy (who’s loved) to He-Man. Noah Centineo is in talks to take on the superhero in Sony Pictures and Mattel Films’ “Masters of the Universe.” More Reviews Film Review: 'Midnight Traveler' Film Review: ‘Made in Abyss: Journey’s Dawn’ Brothers Adam and Aaron Nee are directing the reboot. Mattel Films is partnering with Sony [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content