Support the Girls: And We Danced, by David Bax
In the opening titles of Support the Girls, director Andrew Bujalski contrasts shots of nondescript Central Texas suburban freeways with the super-imposed names of his cast and crew written in fun, brightly colored, hand-drawn scribbles (I may have laughed out loud when “James LeGros xoxoxo” flashed onto the screen in neon green). That juxtaposition of banality and joy is the perfect preparation for what you’re about to see, a tender, beaming workplace comedy about people who really have to work and yet keep finding reasons to smile.
Support the Girls is, with the exception of an epilogue, one of those one-day-in-the-life movies, in this case the story of Lisa (Regina Hall), general manager of Double Whammies, a Hooters-style bar and grill with waitresses and bartenders in tight crop tops and short shorts. On this day, she has to train some new hires while also fixing a cable outage before the boxing match in the evening, which is sure to be a big draw, all while attempting to raise money for one of her employee’s legal fees and dealing, when she can find a spare moment, with her own domestic struggles. And about a half dozen other things.
Often playing as an ensemble comedy, Support the Girls boasts a stellar cast. LeGros is the cantankerous owner of Double Whammies; Haley Lu Richardson’s waitress Maci is the warm heart of the establishment who truly loves her job, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt‘s Dylan Gelula is hilarious as one of the new hires and newcomer Shayna McHayle, a talented musical artist who performs and records under the moniker Junglepussy, makes a strong impression in her first film acting role. But this is ultimately Hall’s movie and she commands it with the same confidence and humanity with which Lisa manages the restaurant.
Bujalski and Hall often seem to be partners instead of writer/director and actor in the way that they expertly map out the geography–physical, mental and emotional–of Double Whammies and its family of staff and regulars. Support the Girls seems to really take place in an actual working restaurant and not on some Empire Records-type movie set.
That verisimilitude comes not just from the sense of place but from Bujalski’s sense for people. Each employee we meet, front or back of house, feels like someone who would work here, either as a way station or as a career.
No one is getting rich working at Double Whammies, not even LeGros’ character. In many ways, and despite being consistently hilarious, Support the Girls is a movie about the day to day, paycheck to paycheck survival of the proletariat. It’s about broke people struggling. But also–joyfully, rousingly–it’s about broke people living.