Undersung Women in Horror Month Day 24: Barista

To celebrate Women in Horror Month, I will be highlighting some of my favorite undersung female characters in horror films each day this month. These posts will contain some spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the movies mentioned, do yourself a solid and check them out before reading all the way through.

Today I’m celebrating the Barista from the 2011 The Innkeepers aka Lena Dunham in a one scene cameo in one of my favorite underrated horror movies. 

I know Lena Dunham is a very polarizing figure, but what I love about this cameo is whether you love her, hate her, or have complicated feelings about her, this cameo will make you laugh because she is reiterating whatever you already think about her. 

I honestly forgot she was in this till I rewatched it a few years ago. It is literally just one scene where our beleaguered protagonist Claire leaves work to go grab a coffee across the street. She notices a special on the menu titled “One Eyed Cyclops” and tries to make some small talk.

Claire: Doesn’t a cyclops always have one eye?

Barista: *earnestly* What do you mean?

The Innkeepers

Claire realizes the Barista genuinely doesn’t get what she means and just orders her drink. But the Barista is not finished with this conversation. She asks about “how things are going next door” in the allegedly haunted inn Claire works at that’s about to permanently close. Claire gives an “it’s fine” response. As the Barista starts the process to steam the milk, she says this:

“Can I speak frankly with you? I mean, I know we don’t know each other that well. But I see you all the time, and we’re all girls here.”

*Claire looks around at the empty coffee shop*

“This Sunday, my boyfriend is taking me on a picnic to the bay. And I’m really excited and I know it’s going to be super romantic and I think that I’m not letting myself be fully excited because there’s something in our relationship that’s been bothering me which is that we’ve been together for almost a year and he still has not told me that he loves me. And I just need to talk to somebody about it because I don’t want to ask him to tell me because he said it on I.M. that’s the thing he said it on I.M. which my friend says doesn’t count that’s like saying “I love you” during sex it doesn’t count and so I wonder if…”

The Barista

The scene ends with a jump cut to Claire throwing her head down on a desk in frustration and boredom. When her coworkers asks where her coffee is, she replies “they ran out.”

I love this scene and character because they help amplify Claire’s sense of ennui with her job and the fleeting relationships you can form working in hospitality/retail. It also sets up an expectation that the Barista is about to refer to the alleged haunting or even Claire’s impending unemployment before the incredible comedic payoff of the complete non-sequitur she launches into. 

The movie is a great little gem and perhaps the greatest depiction of working at a job you don’t give a shit about with people you do give a degree of shit about I’ve seen in a movie. And part of it is now thanks to this quick little moment from an as then not famous from Girls Lena Dunham basically playing herself.

Hats off to the Barista for laying it bare with a random customer who just happened to order a drink in her empty coffee shop. 

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