Workplace comedies used to be all the rage in the independent film world. Clerks was the movie that launched 1000 others, after all. Recently, there hasn’t been much in the way of this genre. Now, however, we have a new one that stands tall with something to say. Opening this week, Support the Girls is a winner of a workplace comedy and character study. Filmmaker Andrew Bujalski has his most mainstream work yet, one that suggests the former mumblecore godfather may have a future attracting larger audiences. He has a singular view of the world, so that often leads to a smaller group interested in his work. Not this time though. This is a winner that everyone can easily enjoy.
The film is a comedy, but one more concerned with the little moments that make up a day than just making you laugh. This is the synopsis that Magnolia put out: “Lisa is the last person you’d expect to find in a highway-side ‘sports bar with curves’, but as general manager at Double Whammies, she’s come to love the place and its customers. An incurable den mother, she nurtures and protects her girls fiercely, but over the course of one trying day, her optimism is battered from every direction. Double Whammies sells a big, weird American fantasy, but what happens when reality pokes a bunch of holes in it?” Lisa (Rebecca Hall) is clearly the voice of reason and the calm within a storm of drama. She has a reliably upbeat employee in Maci (Haley Lu Richardson) that she can rely on, along with some others, but much of her day is spent putting out fires. On this day, it’s especially true. At the same time, the plot itself isn’t especially important. It’s about the characters and the individual moments. The aforementioned Bujalski writes and directs, while the ensemble cast also includes Brooklyn Decker, Lea DeLaria, Dylan Gelula, Zoe Graham, Krista Hayes, James Le Gros, Ann McCaskey, Shayna McHayle, AJ Michalka, Luis Olmeda, Elizabeth Trieu, Steve Zapata, and more.
The characters make this movie what it is. To be sure, there’s top notch writing and directing here, but the combination of that with the cast is what sets it apart. Bujalski created human beings who feel real, something that Hall and Richardson really run with. Down the line though, they all just have a lived in quality to them. Had this been presented as a documentary, aside from a recognizable face or two, you’d buy it, no questions asked. That feel is a Bujalski hallmark, and with the quality present here, it all combines to make his best work to date.
There is a world where a few years from now, we look back on this flick and marvel at who Bujalski got to appear in it. Seriously, it’s that well cast. Hall deserves to be a bigger name than she is, Richardson is going to be a huge star, and the rest of the ensemble is full of potential. Of special note as well is McHayle, who is tremendous as well. Despite being a short film in length, it’s the sort of thing you’d watch for three hours. Perhaps the biggest compliment I can give is that I never wanted it to end.
This weekend, Support the Girls hits theaters and deserves be a real success. The movie may not be as instantly iconic as Clerks, but it’s a smarter and more highbrow version of something like Waiting… (which isn’t bad, but just not on this level). There’s so much to like here. At this rate, Bujalski will be an in demand filmmaker in very short order, and deservedly so. He has a unique eye that he turns into unique cinematic work. Make sure you give this one a shot. It may not be one of the higher profile titles this month, but it’s easily one of the best. See it and you’ll understand why…
Be sure to check out Support the Girls, in theaters starting on Friday!