Starring Regina Hall. Rated 14A
A loose-limbed indie flick in the vein of early Richard Linklater or Lisa Cholodenko, Support the Girls is full of funny, lovable performances yoked to a story that’s unusually hard to follow. Not that it matters.
This brisk 90-minute film is a return to low-budget roots for writer-director Andrew Bujalski, who helped invent the mumblecore genre with largely improvised charmers like Funny Ha Ha and Computer Chess, before making an ill-fated stab at the Hollywood rom-com in 2015’s Results.
Girls stays focused on the all-female crew of Double Whammies, a Hooters-like establishment in Austin, Texas, standing in for every generic strip mall in the USA. The youngsters who work there—all legs, lipstick, and push-up bras—are shepherded by firm-but-fair manager Lisa, played with a hard Texas twang by Regina Hall, who herself waited tables at a breastaurant called Twin Peaks before her Scary Movie breakthrough.
Lisa’s days there include dealing with unexpected daycare issues, raising extra money for friends in legal trouble (car wash!), and employees who get too close to customers. “This is a family establishment,” she insists. Today, there’s a burglar caught in the air vent over the kitchen. No wonder the cable TV keeps going out.
Staff standouts include stubby spark plug Maci (The Edge of Seventeen’s Haley Lu Richardson) and beanpole Danyelle (newcomer Shayna McHayle), who questions the company policy of never having more than two black or Hispanic girls on a shift. “That’s to guarantee diversity,” explains the club’s weaselly owner, Cubby (James LeGros). In one of the tale’s few diversions from the main setting, Cubby takes Lisa for a drive and tries to impress her with his macho cred in a road-rage incident that goes hilariously wrong.
A few other male figures drift through, and veteran comic Lea DeLaria plays a truck-driving regular who strives to protect the girls and harass them at the same time. “Hey, I’m a lover, not a fighter,” responds one lippy customer she goes after. “And right now I don’t wanna do either!”
The filmmaker views all participants with amused affection; his narrative skills are not always as assured. Given the way we’re parachuted into this bare-midriff demimonde with little background allowed, viewers shouldn’t blame themselves for being baffled by Lisa’s relationships with her ex-husband, rivalrous friends, or future employment plans. Human behaviour, not plot construction, is Bujalski’s thing. By the way, he recently wrote the screenplay for Disney’s new live-action reboot of Lady and the Tramp. Youngsters need to know that this title does not refer to another boob-themed establishment.