Andrew Bujalski’s charming “Support the Girls” opens with some seriously boring Austin.
This isn’t the impossibly cool, overeducated and underemployed Austin of 1989 in “Slacker,” nor the retro ’70s Austin of “Dazed and Confused” or the Austin-playing-the-Permian-Basin of “Friday Night Lights.”
No, this is a wide, aerial-ish shot of the Austin of U.S. 183 and Loop 360 — an area that north-south commuters in the city know as the sort of string of strip malls that could be anywhere in America.
It’s kind of too bad that Bujalski never names the Texas city in which “Support the Girls” takes place — it could go a long way in breaking the spell Austin has over people who move here.
But the choice to leave it unnamed is also understandable — the off-brand “breastaurant” Double Whammies managed by Lisa Conroy (a terrific Regina Hall) could be off any highway anywhere in the Lower 48.
Conroy is, by any reasonable standard, a fantastic boss who genuinely cares about the women in her charge. There’s Danielle, the old hand with the cute kid (Shayna McHayle, a musician who works under the name Junglepussy); the somewhat goofy Maci (Haley Lu Richardson), who does not mind customers getting handsy; and Jennelle (Dylan Gelula, who plays the spoiled Xanthippe on “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”), who is not above showing more skin than is acceptable in this rundown bar/restaurant that Lisa insists is a family place.
“We are mainstream,” Lisa says, and you are really not sure if she is saying that or she truly believes it. Then again, she is remarkably insightful about how her job works: “Sad dudes are my business,” she notes — THAT, she believes completely.
Harassment is a no-no, and she has the protective cops to enforce it, along with comedian Lea DeLaria (Boo in “Orange is the New Black”) as a frequent customer.
The story is a little thin on the ground — between shifts, Lisa deals with a husband who is not on the same page, emotionally and apartment-wise; a robbery plot and a waitress with a boyfriend problem are both dealt with in a manner than emphasizes Lisa’s combination of toughness and compassion. But this isn’t that sort of movie. This is a canny update of Richard Linklater’s hangout style.
But it’s not all, well, support and helping middle-aged doofs feel less terrible about themselves via busty waitresses, a burger and a beer.
Cubby (the oddly underrated James LeGros in surgical strike performance, part scuzz and part … well, it’s mostly scuzz) isn’t the best owner in the world; he and Lisa might very well have a history more complicated than either lets on, even as he is the sort of guy who thinks having only two black women per shift spreads the diversity around a bit.
And Hall, seen last year in the totally excellent “Girls Trip,” is exceptionally good as Lisa, who is determined to put the best face on everything (a quality her employees rely upon) even as she seems one bad break away from losing her mind. As things with her boss get more heated, the future of her role at Double Whammies seems increasingly up in the air, even as it is clear Lisa is the only thing holding the restaurant together. After all, that place is a one-off, and the far more corporate chain Mancave — less personal but perhaps more stable — beckons.
Don’t expect easy answers or resolutions — work and life and the intersection therein don’t work like that. But when the ladies seize a small bit of catharsis and Lisa looks upon 183 and 360 and says to her charges, “I do love that highway sound,” you really do believe that there is nothing she can’t make a little bit beautiful.
“Support the Girls”
Starring Regina Hall, Haley Lu Richardson, Dylan Gelula
R for language including sexual references, and brief nudity