In the most accurate reflections of the modern workplace I’ve seen in quite some time, Regina Hall fills Support the Girls with a dazzling variety of borderline breakdown moments. Hall plays Lisa, the day manager of a moderately successful Texas sports bar that has shamelessly adopted the Hooters model of attractive young waitresses clad in uniforms made with less fabric than the average bathing suit, sidling up to tables to offer a complimentary side of flirting with the hot wings and fries. Through the course of a long, trying day, Lisa is tested repeatedly, by problems that are grounded in the locale (a robbery attempt, the cable going out, staffing tangles). The problems aren’t outlandish, nor to they escalate with heightened furor. But they also deliver cumulative wear, like lapping waves eroding a stone. Writer-director Andrew Bujalski crafts the story with a vivid sense of place and a commitment to proper details, qualities which afford a dignity to the characters.
Many filmmakers would leverage the setting into easy laughs, but Bujalski shows no interest in such callous, superior mockery. Support the Girls is consistently funny while staying clearly and kindly in the corner of the people onscreen, respecting them for engaging in tedious, thankless, sometimes demeaning work because that’s simply what’s available for them. Bujalski is committed to the humanity of the piece, a sympathy that allows for fully realized characters to come through in the writing in conception. He also collaborates to develop a kindness to the performances that further unlock nuanced personalities, especially in the roles inhabited by Haley Lu Richardson and Shayna McHale. It’s Hall who stands tallest, though. Every moment, whether wry, forceful, or melancholy, is brightly, piercingly real. By all appearances, Hall takes it as her charge to do right by Lisa and others like her, to afford them the voice often denied to them in a precarious marketplace where even the crummiest jobs can disappear on a whim. In the truth of her acting, Hall provides her own brand of blessed support.