Thanks to Regina Hall, ‘breastaurant’ comedy ‘Support the Girls’ is a hoot
Regina Hall shines as manager a Hooters-style restaurant in 'Support the Girls.'
In the ramshackle comedy Support the Girls, the owner of a failing "breastaurant" recounts advice he once got from his father: The first time you have an instinct to fire someone, you should do it.
"Bless his heart," says Lisa (Regina Hall) the on-thin-ice manager to whom the remark is directed.
It's a wonderful line reading by Hall, who gives it just the right note of irony — Lisa knows where the power resides in the relationship, but she also knows when to risk some carefully calibrated insubordination.
This is another fine performance from Hall, who's given a good character to play by writer-director Andrew Bujalski. Lisa is crafty, resourceful, humane. When she lets something slide at the restaurant because she's "feeling generous," a worker says, "You're always generous." He says it twice, because it's true. It's also true that generosity might cost Lisa her job.
"All I wanted to do today was one good thing," she says at one point. On this day, it's a benefit car wash. She has asked a few of her "girls" to come in early, staging a car wash to raise money for a waitress who's missed shifts because she's been abused by her boyfriend. A nice gesture — and technically illegal — and when the owner (James Le Gros) shows up unexpectedly after a fishing trip, she's in hot water.
Lisa enforces and bends the rules, which for legal reasons are often unwritten. Such as the Rainbow Rule — no more than one black waitress per shift — which the owner halfheartedly defends as a "guideline" aimed at increasing diversity, an Orwellian feat of semantics that can only exist in a place where the other unwritten rules prohibit dissent.
As bad as the owner is, Support hints that things are likely to get worse. A corporate chain — Mancave — is moving in, and promising to take the worst practices of Double Whammies and make them formal, institutional, national. "We like to make the job idiot-proof," says a Mancave recruiter, capturing her company's view of its workforce.
Support the Girls is not an ax-grinding movie. Its understanding of minimum-wage workforce reality translates into a disarming look at the precarious life of the low-wage worker. In this arena, Lisa has survived and thrived by being smart and uncommonly decent — traits returned to her by loyal staff (like Columbus' Haley Lu Richardson). She's smart enough to see that she's expendable, even if her employees disagree.
"It makes a difference when your boss really cares about you, when your boss really cares about her customers," says a waitress, a line that should be taught at Wharton before the class moves on to short-term shareholder value.
It also makes a difference that Hall is in this role. She brings a unifying strength and emotional substance to a movie with a scruffy-charm comic tone and rambling episodic structure.
She is helped here and there by supporting players. McHayle is funny as ambitious waitress Danyelle. In her other life, McHayle is also a rapper, but you'll have to Google her because her stage name cannot be printed in this newspaper.
Support the Girls
Directed by Andrew Bujalski. With Regina Hall, Shayna McHayle, James LeGros, and Haley Lu Richardson. Distributed by Magnolia Pictures.
Running time: 1 hour, 30 mins.
Parents guide: R (language, sexuality)
Playing at: Ritz at teh Bourse