Support the Girls ★★★★

The only Andrew Bujalski film I've seen is "Computer Chess," and here's something that thankfully moves away from that film's esoterica into something more empathetic and accessible - like if the Dardennes Brothers mounted a mainstream comedy for an ambitious studio. I was on its audiovisual wavelength from the opening credits, where the empowerment power ballad encouraging the listener to cowboy up felt confined to a tinny car radio and never explodes into the surround sound. That the movie is calibrated that way - and emphasizes the idea by having one of its many cloddish male characters being an audiophile - is among its small touches that I loved. (See also the crumpled heart sticker, the crossed-out number on the Double Whammies rule board and the scanner chatter of "They're asking if you mean like 'Die Hard' " in one instance.)

"Sad dudes are my business," says Regina Hall's Lisa, whose low-key realistic struggle with sustaining the day spans all manner of hardship that, quite often, are the result of impudent and impulsive men. Hall is doing the same sort of yeoman's work here as Willem Dafoe in "The Florida Project," but with even more nuance and shading with which to work. It's a stunning turnabout from her straight-up work and, alongside what she does in "The Hate U Give," half of one of the year's more impressive cinematic resumes. Hall shows us the ways in which Lisa has ingrained her ability to handle every hurdle with grace and dignity, as much for her own sanity as anything else - one crisis at a time to manage expectations and emotions for everyone involved, rarely with the best outcome.

But she also never prostrates herself before a parade of problems, instead taking opportunities to impart a lesson, ease a burden and, eventually, stand up for herself. Another nice touch from Bujalski - Lisa's interaction with birds. It's never spoken, but you can feel that she envies them. What can kill them is never something about which they have much genuine anxiety. They're birds. They live or they don't. Eventually, Bujalski lets her ascend to a vantage point closer to them for a moment in which she indulges, however briefly, their same elemental attitude toward stress. It's a genuinely great final scene, in which Haley Lu Richardson and Shayna McHayle also shine in a sort of supporting angel-devil act to balance Lisa out.

Ultimately, "Support the Girls" is a work of humane kindness and the ways in which tension is both defused in the moment and diffused or distributed among those you trust. My heart was nearly in my throat during a moment involving a bag of dubiously acquired money - which achieves a Mamet level of momentum and meaning - but then Bujalski thwarts it with one of the best "robbery" jokes this side of "White Men Can't Jump." Then there's Lisa's a-ha moment - not realizing there's only so much she can do to save people from their worst decisions but recognizing "worst" is truly all relative. Chaos versus clarity clash every single day. Sometimes there are spoils for those who aren't the victors.