The all-caps No. 1 rule posted on the break-room wall at roadside boobs-and-burgers joint Double Whammies is “NO DRAMA.” The directive in Andrew Bujalski’s lo-fi episodic rambler is more like continuous drama — mostly lowercase, and mostly tilted toward a particularly taxing day in the life of the bar’s beleaguered manager, Lisa (Girls Trip‘s Regina Hall, who is the heart and soul of the movie).
Whammies is the kind of place you might find on the off-ramp of a thousand dusty freeways: cracked vinyl booths and ESPN looped on the TV screens, $2 domestic beers and nacho cheese turned to orange lava in the microwave. The hook is that it’s also a kind of family-friendly, off-brand Hooters: The waitresses wear little red crop-tops and shorts so tiny they’re more like an innuendo of denim.
Lisa has a few employees she can pretty much count on, including vivacious Maci (Hailey Lu Richardson, a sweet champagne bubble in a Bump-It) and the more grounded Danielle (the excellently dry Shayna McHayle). But she’s also dealing with a load of messy new recruits, a possible burglary orchestrated by one of her cook’s cousins, a cable outage, abusive customers, her own crumbling marriage, and a visit from the loutish owner (James Le Gros), a crank in ugly footwear who seems to come by only to complain and undermine his overworked staff.
Bujalksi, who also wrote the script, is often called the godfather of mumblecore, the niche genre of talky, naturalistic cinema that helped give us now-mainstream stars like Greta Gerwig and the Duplass brothers. He gives each scene a loping verité vibe, but the movie itself never quite gels — maybe because his plot is so episodic, and his characters so roughly sketched: the jerk, the ditz, the lonely old man.
What fills in those gaps is the Girls themselves, particularly Hall’s lovely, nuanced performance as a woman who cares too much, even when no one else is watching. To see a black female over 40 holding the center of a story about ordinary, unsung lives makes Support a low-key pleasure; one that transcends its own shaggy narrative. B