“Support the Girls” is one of the sneakiest bait-and-switches at the movies this year. You come for the cheeky title and stay for the relevant, empathetic story about working-class women.
That’s a feat, considering it’s set at a Hooters-like restaurant on a Texas highway, where buxom waitresses in skimpy outfits serve burgers and beer; the sort of place Hollywood loves to mock. I was expecting a sit-com-y, stereotype-packed yuk fest.
Instead of ribbing the establishment, however, director Andrew Bujalski’s charmingly funny film treats it as a legitimate business filled with good, entertaining people just trying to scrape by.
The ladies of the restaurant, which is called Double Whammies, are able to survive thanks to their manager Lisa, played by Regina Hall as a warm pillar of moral authority. Lisa has a zero-tolerance policy for rude or belligerent customers, keeps the business from spiraling into a strip club and shows honest concern for her girls’ home lives, too. She’s the perfect boss in a less-than-perfect situation.
The movie takes place on her worst day ever. That’s when Double Whammies’ jerk owner is on the verge of snapping because a competitor — a Buffalo Wild Wings-esque sports bar — is about to open nearby. Lisa’s marriage is on the rocks and a robber has attempted to open the restaurant’s safe. Oh, and the TVs aren’t working on the night of a big boxing match. The poor woman is as fried as her mozzarella sticks.
But, as the remarkable Hall’s character in “Girls Trip” did when her relationship began to crumble, Lisa puts on a brave face.
The other actresses are very believable bartenders and servers, in some instances toning down their natural star wattage to blend in the with wood-paneled surroundings. For instance, Shayna McHayle, who plays a waitress named Danyelle, is better known for her work as a rapper.
Before you decide that “Support the Girls” must be a Richard Linklater-like deep dive into Middle America’s quiet desperation, know that the movie has a lot of laughs. A new-employee-training scene is particularly delightful. The pathos is a bonus.
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