If I told you Support The Girls is a comedy set in a Hooters-like breastaurant, you’d probably assume its brand of humor is crass and bro-focused, concocting lame excuses for booty-shaking and boob-baring, in the tradition of movies like the American Pie franchise and the uninspired slew of crasser, less funny ripoffs it inspired. But despite a premise that seems to promise titty-jiggling shenanigans and a title that seems a not-so-subtle innuendo for a bra, this indie comedy is staunchly female-focused and defiantly heartwarming.
Writer/director Andrew Bujalski’s Support The Girls centers on Lisa (Girls Trip’s Regina Hall), the caring but harried manager of Double Whammies, a “family-friendly” sports bar, where the waitresses’ uniforms consist of low-cut crop tops, denim booty shorts, and a broad smile. The guests might be lecherous. Her boss might be a vaguely racist and definitely sexist creep with a dangerously short temper. But Lisa sees her “girls” as family and will do whatever it takes to do right by them, even if it puts her job on the line.
Though billed as a comedy, Support The Girls leans into the real-life drama within the lives of working-class women. Single-mom Danyelle (Shayna McHayle) brings her sweet and always respectful son to work when a cold means he can’t go to school. While Lisa helps her line up a babysitter, she cajoles a customer to help them out with an impromptu fundraiser to rescue another co-worker from the grips of her abusive boyfriend. While they serve up burgers and brews, they’re faced with disrespectful comments about their bodies and presumptions that this kind of job means they’re stupid. But Lisa—and Bujalski’s smart script—know better than to underestimate these girls.
This is a movie about hard-working and deeply resilient women. Hall is this movie’s center of gravity, instantly grounding the film’s earnestness and authenticity with a wary side-eye, lush with feeling and lavished in silver eyeshadow. As Lisa, she does a dance very familiar to working women. On the surface, she is warm, diplomatic, and smiling. But beneath lies a brewing ambition, a ferocious compassion, and a deep desire to protect her girls, which bursts forth mightily when tested.
The casting across the board is dazzling. Orange Is The New Black’s Lea DeLaria brings a spunky charm as Double Whammies’s chatty regular, Bobo. With an unfortunate mullet and a jittery machismo, James Le Gros exudes douchebag so intensely you practically choke on his Axe bodyspray. As Danyelle, Shayna McHayle offers a bitingly wry delivery, warmed by a soft smirk. AJ Michalka brings a relateable restlessness, while Dylan Gelula (Xanthippe Voorhees of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) presents a painful overeagerness as the uninhibited new girl. And Haley Lu Richardson is an absolute ray of sunshine as Double Whammies’s perkiest waitress, Maci. It’d be easy enough to paint Maci as a bubbly, brainless bimbo. But Richardson, who brought a tense tenderness to the best friend role in the outstanding coming-of-age comedy The Edge of Seventeen, brings an ardent awareness and emotional intelligence to Maci, making it clear she knows how the world sees her. She just doesn’t care.
Over the course of the film, Maci, Danyelle, and Lisa become distinct portraits of female resilience, one choosing cheerfulness, one ever no-nonsense, one caring so intensely it might burn her down. These are women we recognize. Sisters we know. In a pitch-perfect ending, they gather together for stolen cocktails, squatting atop a roof, looking out onto a sprawling asphalt maze of commerce, and seeking their future. We don’t know what that’ll be. But there’s a comfort in knowing they’ll go there together. And so Support The Girls becomes a film about a family, who stands together, laughs together, drinks together, and—when the situation calls for it—howls into the din of a sun-drenched highway together.