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Short Take: Support the Girls

(Andrew Bujalski, USA, Magnolia Pictures, Opening August 24)

Very rare are the movie depictions of restaurant work that evoke the mental and emotional dissonance required to get through an eight-hour shift. Andrew Bujalski’s Support the Girls—which takes place predominantly within a topsy-turvy 24-hour period, as the manager of a T&A sports bar juggles the concerns of every needy patron and employee—portrays precisely that odd mix of knowing self-abjection and bubbling, flirtatious confidence present in real-life restaurant workers. Yes, the film reveals some hard truths about that business, but the surreality of high-stress, low-stakes work as seen here is also at times as hilarious as it is harrowing.

As the manager of the Double Whammies restaurant, Regina Hall is a standout for both comic timing and emotional resonance. Hall is equally vulnerable and unbreakable: there’s an infallible goodness emanating from her, as though Lisa is the embodiment of the “not all heroes wear capes” meme, a kind of maternal martyr. Bujalski practically paints Lisa as a saint with a deep well of mercy; when she finds a man stuck in the backroom vent after a botched robbery, she lets his accomplice, the fry cook, finish out the day without drama.

Amid crisis point after crisis point—from the cable TV going out on fight night to the boss taking Lisa along to ambush his ex’s new beau—Support the Girls locates the humanity of every character.

April Wolfe is a writer and filmmaker in Los Angeles. She hosts the Switchblade Sisters podcast on the Maximum Fun network.