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Welcome back to Friday afternoon, a time to “Marie Kondo” all the work you didn’t finish this week and start planning what you’re going to watch and eat between now and Monday. I’ve got three recommendations for things to stream: an excellent indie feature, and two lively shows about Mexican-American dishes. Here’s what to add to your queue this weekend:
If you have a service industry job — whether it’s in a fine dining restaurant, a fast-food place, or anything in between — the best you can hope for is to have a manager like Lisa, the protagonist of the indie dramedy Support the Girls. She’s one of the best fictional characters I’ve seen on screen in ages, in a movie that’s slyly powerful, and entertaining from start to finish.
Lisa, played by Regina Hall, is constantly aware of all the pressure points that her staffers face inside and outside of Double Whammies, the Hooters knock-off where they work. But even as they’re serving “big butt” beers to horny schmucks in the middle of the day, Lisa wants her staffers to feel empowered, and know how to navigate the bizarre situations that arise in their workplace. She understands the importance of making her teammates feel like they’re not just co-workers, but members of a pseudo-family who can reach out for help when they need it. And, on top of it all, Lisa clearly thinks her girls deserve to have fun on the job — on their own terms.
Support the Girls chronicles Lisa’s shift from hell, the messy evening that follows, and an afternoon a week or so later, where justice for her and her teammates seems like a distinct possibility.
All restaurants, even the ones that don’t involve skimpy server uniforms and mandatory flirtation with guests, have echoes of the chaotic workplace depicted in Support the Girls. And while I appreciate the attention to detail paid to the general rhythms of restaurant life, my hunch is that filmmaker Andrew Bujolowski chose the breastaurant setting because it throws one of the film’s central themes — the struggles, big and small, that women face in the workplace — into sharp relief. As my colleague Alissa Wilkinson notes in her Vox review, the film starts as “a workplace comedy“ but “morphs into an affecting, startlingly insightful depiction of the bone-weary work of being a woman in a man’s world.”
The most powerful moment in that regard is a scene between Lisa and her boss, Cubby, in the car on the way to the bank. She basically runs his entire business from head-to-toe, approaching her employees and regulars with a level of grace that is perhaps uncommon for a shabby neighborhood sports bar. But Cubby can’t looks past a few mistakes — decisions she made while trying to help one of her employees out of a bind — despite the fact that Lisa goes above and beyond the call of duty in every other way. The message, it seems, is that Lisa can’t under- or over-perform at her job without catching flack from her boss. It’s a completely toxic relationship, one of several that the manager and her staff have to navigate in the Double Whammies universe.
Bujolowski balances heavy scenes like this with moments of surprising levity (a particularly hilarious/cathartic plot twist notably punctuates the end of Lisa and Cubby’s ride in the car that afternoon). The filmmaker, who first earned acclaim as one of the pioneers of the “Mumblecore” movement, has taken the best traits of that genre — an emphasis on the emotional lives of seemingly ordinary people; an ear for naturalistic dialogue — and applied them to a story with much broader appeal than any of his previous works. His next project is, somewhat surprisingly, an adaptation of Lady and the Tramp for Disney. After seeing the skilful way he juggles the lives of all of the characters in Support the Girls, I look forward to watching what he does with a star-crossed mutt and Cocker Spaniel.
But the main reason to watch Support the Girls is Hall’s masterful performance as Lisa, and particularly her scenes with co-stars Shayna McHayle and Haley Lu Richardson. The movie is now streaming for free on Hulu, but you can also watch it on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, and YouTube.
The gist: The final episode of this new PBS digital series focuses on the carnitas culture in the border city of El Paso, right across the bridge from Juarez, Mexico. Co-host Mando Rayo grew up here, and knows the area’s deep connection to the braised pork dish that is traditionally cooked outdoors in a giant cauldron called a cazo. After hitting up two casual taquerias, Rayo and co-host Jarod Neece head to the home of Rulis Gonzalez, the chef/owner of Rulis’ International Kitchen, to prepare a big batch of carnitas in his backyard, in a sequence that feels like a celebration.
In a nod to the conversations about Trump’s proposed border wall that’s still raging two months after this episode aired, Rayo drops a few powerful observations about his hometown and its relationship with the city right across the bridge. “People from Juarez actually come and do their shopping here as well, and vice versa,” the host remarks midway through this episode. “Just because there’s a border wall, there’s a bridge, doesn’t mean that people’s connections to each other stops.”
The gist: Continuing on the Mexican-American food kick, this episode of TruTV’s explainer series features know-it-all comic Adam Conover breaking down the problematic histories of three main ingredients in game-day nachos: avocados, corn chips, and bacon bits. Each segment involves cartoonish comedy sketches about these foods, with context about the surprising business deals that made them popular in America. While I didn’t find these sketches to be particularly funny, I think there’s valuable info scattered throughout, especially in the part about the violent cartels that control the Mexican avocado trade. The conversation between Conover and Yale professor Rodrigo Canales that ends the episode presents a persuasive argument against buying avocados imported from Mexico, even when American-grown versions of the fruit are out of season.
Have a great weekend, and if you’re looking for something hearty to cook that will make your house smell amazing, consider Ina Garten’s brisket with onions and leeks.
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