Those workers are a motley crew of 20-somethings making various amounts of compromises to survive in a service industry. Star servers Maci (Haley Lu Richardson) and Danyelle (Shayna McHayle) both use Double Whammies as an intermediary to stabilize or improve their lives. The former has found the one patron who treats her with kindness, a tweedy professor, and has begun a relationship with the much older man, while the latter often brings her young son with her to work when school is out or unstable child care falls through, and they’re the two best workers in the place. Others, like rookie Jennelle (Dylan Gelula), are entirely too enthusiastic about the bar’s dress code and what it implies about the relationship between skin and tips. The staff is variably reckless and short-sighted, as might be expected of women their age, but no one doubts that Lisa has their best interests at heart even when they don’t want to take her advice.
This kind of support is shown to be necessary based on who’s coming through the doors. An early montage of sad kitchen prep indicates that people are not coming to Double Whammies for the wilted vegetables and fryer grease. Much of the crowd are sad versions of The Office’s Michael Scott, who famously loved Hooters, but plenty are more dangerous. More than one patron is thrown out due to inappropriate comments or invading a server’s personal space. A thread that has run through all of Donald Glover’s Atlanta series is how quickly things can take a turn from the friendly to the violent for people of color in America, and in Support the Girls’ microcosm, this is true for the servers as well. Scary situations that produce a hot feeling on one’s neck abound, especially in the swirling devolution of the finale. Outside of Double Whammies, male characters like the impotent Le Gros, clad in a character defining outfit of cargo shorts and socks with sandals all while towing a boat behind his truck, rant and rave about their inability to will the world into the shape they want it to be, while other men do more than yell as they bully the women of the film. The injustice of Support the Girls is how tethered the women are to these men, whether for tips or their share of the mortgage.
It’s no spoiler to say that Support the Girls ends with a series of cathartic screams, outbursts that are earned by the preceding 80ish minutes. Waiting tables is a stressful enough job, as this former server experienced panicky nightmares about evenings gone wrong long after he delivered his last entrée. The added wrinkle of constantly defusing sexual tension would drive anyone to primal yells. Bujalski expertly creates a hang-out film in an environment where the stakes can skyrocket at a moment’s notice. Support the Girls, an odd companion piece to fellow 2018 release Lean On Pete thanks to its shared respect of waitresses, palpably loves its characters and wants better for them than having to woodenly tell disbelieving patrons that, yes, they do indeed enjoy their jobs. Lisa’s presence makes it possible that this is true, but really, everyone knows they don’t. If some schlub asked me if I enjoyed this film, however, I could earnestly tell them yes, and I wouldn’t have to worry about them missing my answer because they were distracted by my décolletage. B+