Written by Michael Clawson
No drama. That’s rule #1 at Double-Whammies, a sports bar with “big ass beers” and scantily glad young waitresses. Its manager, Lisa (Regina Hall), emphatically stresses the importance of this rule as she trains new hires over the course of a strange and unpredictable day in Bujalski’s latest, a hilarious, sweet, and offbeat film.
Stuff happens throughout the day – Lisa discovers a guy is stuck in the ventilation system, the cable goes out, the girls put on a car wash – but despite having established a rule that it seems will inevitably be broken in a predictable fashion, Bujalski’s drama doesn’t register in any conventional sense.
There isn’t any non-diagetic music telling us what’s funny and what’s serious, and the editing focuses as much on the absence of action as action itself, contributing to a realist tonality. Characters frequently step out of the frame, the camera lingering on the empty space they’ve left behind, most notably on three particular occasions. In one instance, the camera shows Lisa sitting at her dining room table, but she exits the frame to answer her doorbell while the camera remains on the table.
On an even more conspicuous occasion, the camera focuses on the space we learn was previously occupied by a foosball table, which, to one customer’s dismay, was sold. The staff talks about it perhaps being replaced by a pool table, but despite the attention to the empty space, we don’t find out what will ultimately fill it.
Lastly, in the final scene, as Lisa shares a bottle of whiskey with her two closest waitresses on a highway-side rooftop, Maci (Haley Lu Richardson) describes a girl crying in the parking lot below, but Bujalski’s withholds the image itself. The action, once again, is offscreen, and its absence enriches our sense of the world existing beyond the four walls of the frame.
Summed together with Maci’s bubbly demeanor, Lisa’s maternal compassion, and a laugh-out-loud comedic yet unexpectedly moving sequence of events, Bujalski achieves a highly satisfying and distinctive form of storytelling.
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