This is one of those films which focuses on an eventful day in the lives of the employees of a small business. There are a bunch of these films but for some reason the film we both thought of afterwards was Empire Records, though this is a very different movie (it should go without saying). It’s not strictly “a day in the life” as a couple scenes take place afterwards, but it’s mostly just one day for these characters at their workplace.
This is an excellent example of one of these “day in the life” films for a number of reasons, starting with the fact that it manages to be both funny but also dramatic and affecting when it needs to be. I find this balance to be pretty hard and in my experience many, many movies striving to maintain this balance don’t get there. This film does in part because we know the movie is going to be serious from the opening post-titles shot of Lisa crying, so when it does get more serious later, we’ve already been set up for it.
Just about every character with a speaking role in this film feels real. This is another thing that isn’t always handled well, especially in larger budget movies. (For some reason, filmmakers of smaller movies always seem to spend more time on their minor characters.) I’m always super impressed when just about everyone who opens their mouth feels more like a person than an archetype, and that’s true here.
But the most refreshing part of the film, and the reason to see it is the perspective: that of a matronly middle-aged black woman managing the small town equivalent of a Hooters. I don’t know about you, but it’s not a perspective I’ve seen before at the centre of a film. Regina Hall is excellent – as is most of the cast – as a put-upon manager trying to manage both her employees and their personal lives (and her own depressed husband). It’s the kind of perspective that feels particularly necessary given the state of affairs in the US (economically, socially).
Anyway, this is a pretty great little film. Highly recommended.