Writer/director Andrew Bujalski, whose previous resume includes such films as the indie fitness comedy Results and the perplexing low-fi competition/convention nightmare Computer Chess, has crafted a naturalistic and quietly incisive comedy about the never-ending battle that Lisa faces between the corporate system she needs to operate in to keep her job and basic human compassion. There's no question that Lisa wants to do the right thing, both for the restaurant and the staff that look up to her, but figuring out what constitutes "the right thing" when her job is built a business model that intentionally stakes out the gray area between exploiting and protecting the ladies who work there (not to mention the corporate grind and modern American sexual politics in general) is harder than it looks.
Bujalski declines to take a traditional plot-driven approach, adopting a loose narrative style that trusts the audience to pick up on themes and commentary on Double Whammies and Lisa's challenges that quietly accumulate rather than constructing traditional arcs. At the same time, his screenplay still manages to tie up all of its loose ends, bringing B-threads such as the robber in the vent to a neat resolution without much emphasis or even an expectation that certain aspects of it will be resolved. The film is almost entirely centered around a single day at Double Whammies, from before open to a climactic close, with an epilogue on the end. In addition to the vent guy, the TVs, and her vengeful employee, Lisa is welcoming a crop of would-be employees to the floor for a test shift. For the legal defense, she concocts an impromptu fundraising car wash in the restaurant parking lot, and on top of everything else, she's juggling her own personal problems with a grumpy ex (Lawrence Varnado).
In lieu of plot, the performances drive the film, with most of the responsibility falling on Hall, Richardson, and McHayle's shoulders. The three of them have an authentically communal vibe, with Hall playing the slightly weary mother figure who largely likes and sympathizes with her younger employees even if she doesn't agree with their specific actions. All three women are sharply drawn: Maci's cheery, perpetually optimistic sweetness (which in no way suggests naivete or cluelessness), Danyelle's deadpan cynicism that only lightens in the face of Lisa's determination, and Lisa's simultaneous willingness to do whatever's necessary to keep the restaurant running smoothly for another day and contradictory sense that she could still be doing more. Their personalities are not only flavor that helps ground the film in reality, but a concoction that helps drive the movie's story forward, an impressive juggling act that Bujalski practically accomplishes on the sly.
The film is also blessed with a fun supporting cast, including Lea DeLaria as a warm and devoted regular named Bobo, John Elvis as a dorky speaker-store employee who has eyes for Danyelle, Brooklyn Decker as an employee of Mancave, and James LeGros as Lisa's boss Cubby. Cubby is another reflection of the film's story, a man who walks the line between being an obnoxious ass and surprisingly agreeable, an arrogant egomaniac and a realist. Through these contradictions, Bujalski cannily reinforces his illustration of a real-world conflict that can't be resolved without completely changing the system, something that the characters don't have the means to break themselves out of. At once helpless and sympathetic, Support the Girls is like a warm hug in a sea of despair, one that can't fix the ails of the world but can temporarily lighten the load.
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