I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
What’s this? A comedy about a bunch of women who work in an ersatz Hooters? No thank you. And it’s written and directed by a man? All the nope.
Except Support the Girls — pun, I very much presume, intended — is from writer-director Andrew Bujalski, who has gifted us with the wonderfully weird Computer Chess and the slightly less weird but still wonderful Results. And once again he takes us inside a subculture that hardly seems obscure and turns our expectations of it upside down while painting sharp yet generous and deeply human portraits of its denizens. That subculture is the obvious one in Chess; it was gym rats in Results; and here it’s the mostly female staff of, ahem, Double Whammies, a “sports bar with curves” (*groan*) on the side of a highway in Austin, Texas (where Bujalski’s other films were set and shot as well).
“It makes such a difference when your boss really cares about you,” says waitress Maci (the increasingly indispensable Haley Lu Richardson: Five Feet Apart, Split) about Double Whammies manager Lisa, and this day-in-the-life story — more a dramedy than a comedy, actually — is all about embracing us in the big warm hug that working for Lisa looks to be, along with the occasional dollop of tough love. Regina Hall (Little, Vacation) is absolutely glorious as the wholly supportive but no-bullshit Lisa: she starts her day here trying to arrange child care for another waitress, Danyelle (Shayna McHayle, aka rapper Junglepussy), so that Danyelle can work her regular shift, and she doesn’t seem to resent taking on a task that many in her position wouldn’t see as their responsibility. Lisa’s job is an endless juggling act, one in which her kindness sometimes sees her get taken advantage of, but she appears to think that’s a small price to pay for keeping her crew happy and healthy and her ship sailing smoothly.
This is a movie the likes of which we see all too rarely: it’s about the unspoken, automatic ways that, mostly, women look out for other women, and the disappointment that invariably comes with discovering that not all women are always onboard with this. I’m genuinely surprised that a man made Support the Girls — even one as clearly empathetic as Bujalski — because it’s so wise about women’s relationships with other women in the moments that men don’t usually see, and so smart and witty about how women navigate everyday sexism. It sometimes feels like the world should surely be driving all us women insane, and then you get a reminder of how we all manage to cope. The fact that Girls could serve as that sort of reminder is, well, pretty extraordinary.