Whipsmart 'Support The Girls' Is A Slice of Hooters Life
Behind the push-up bras and boy shorts are... people!
The mumblecore movement of the 2000s produced some serious talent. Greta Gerwig saw her 2017 film Ladybird nominated for several Oscars last year, the Duplass brothers are everywhere, and filmmakers like Joe Swanberg are in high demand. Writer/director Andrew Bujalski, one of the leaders of the movement, may be the best of them all. Bujalski's latest keeps his mumblecore roots intact while telling the story of the Double Whammies girls, blue collar workers whose collective plight any American working person should identify with.
Support the Girls (h/t for the double entendre) is a slice of life. You'll see it billed as a comedy, but that's just marketing. Bujalski's film defies genre by staying character-based. The story follows several loose threads, none of which resolve with a fight, or a death, or anything really. It's a movie about people, about relationships, and about America itself.
Double Whammies is a Hooters-type establishment in Texas managed by Lisa (Regina Hall), a smart boss who's seen it all. She has two waitresses she relies on heavily: the enthusiastic Maci (Haley Lu Richardson) and the deadpan Danyelle (played by the rapper Junglepussy, in her first feature role). Lisa is in the weeds from the beginning of the day as the cable goes out with a big boxing match on the docket for later on in the evening. She has to deal with the fallout while also balancing her own unstable relationship, an attempted robbery that happened before the events of the film, and a waitress who's being abused at home.
Support the Girls doesn't show us any of these things, they're just talked about after the fact. As in Lisa's life, the movie just throws everything at us and expects us to keep up. It's a savvy way to introduce backstory and layer the characters before they ever say a word. What's most important, though, is all these problems fall to Lisa to solve. Yes, she's a manager of a restaurant, but more than that, she's a manager of these girls' lives.
Imagine that: Hooters girls are actually people. By setting Support the Girls at a misogny-themed restaurant, Bujalski is tapping into our preconceived notions about these types of places and the people who inhabit them. In doing so, he creates a microcosm that symbolizes, not only all restaurants, but all small businesses. That's smart storytelling.
Of course, the writing doesn't work without the actors onscreen. Hall has always been an excellent actress and it's exciting to see her in a role that isn't a one-note part. It seems like she's always someone's best friend, little else. Hall has had trouble getting worthy roles for the same reason all actresses have: There aren't any. The film industry is, and always has been, male-dominated. A movie like Support the Girls is an outlier, not to mention a gem. Hall gives a naturalistic performance that makes you believe in the character. There's nothing showy about her. She's just trying to get through the day.
Hall is good, but the star of Support the Girls is Richardson who's fast becoming an actress to watch. Maci is the film's comedic heartbeat. Bubbly but professional, it's obvious she loves her job, but there's a rhyme to her madness. Early on, she trains a group of new girls and breaks down how to get the best tips without throwing yourself at the customer. She's invested in Double Whammies so much she's even started a relationship with one of her regulars, an elderly gentleman who adores her. Maci may know the business, but she's still got a lot to learn about life. Richardson navigates these complicated waters easily, never appearing anything less than earnest.
Of course, Bujalski's film is also socially political. You don't make a movie about these characters without touching on the ideas behind their workplace environment. Whether or not you think restaurants like Hooters should exist at all, the fact is they're businesses that employ people no different from you or I. They have problems, boyfriends, girlfriends, debts, mistakes, and everything else that we all deal with. On top of that, they have a job where they're harassed periodically (in a system that's already oppressive to women). Support the Girls tells us all these things by not saying any of it. It's themes are self-evident, and that's how you make a good movie.