In Dylan Kidd’s straightforwardly titled Get a Job, the anxiety and awkward stress of finding and then maintaining a job becomes the central crux of the film’s narrative. It’s a problem faced by a variety of characters, both in age, gender and race.
And did I mention it’s also a comedy? Albeit not in the same whip smart and economically staged manner as Adam McKay’s The Big Short – a recent film that dares to put humor behind the soul crushing ills of society’s darker moments – Kidd’s film touches on some genuine fears of a world that seems too busy to stop and notice when it’s stepping on the little guy. Regrettably, Get a Job attempts to mine these unfortunate truths while also being a raunchy comedy whose misguided laughs feel like they were ripped from a Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg script.
The only one of four housemates to actually have a job when the film opens, Will (Miles Teller), summarily loses it the first day he shows up for work as a non-intern. Specializing in video production and making a small name for himself via You Tube videos, Will begins looking for another job in the same field. It doesn’t help his pride when pal Charlie (Nicholas Braun) accepts a position as a high school chemistry teacher (who still smokes lots of pot, naturally) and third roommate Luke (Brandon Jackson) seals the deal for his dream job as a stockbroker. The fourth friend of the bunch, played in usual form by Christopher Mintz-Plasse, barely registers as anything more than the extension of the character he’s played in films since Superbad.
Also, Will’s girlfriend (played by Anna Kendrick in a fairly thankless role), faces her own bouts of uncertainty while trying to remain positive for him.
Lending even more fuel to Will’s despondency is the fact his own father (Bryan Cranston) also loses his job in his company after 21 years of management. In a piece of dialogue that rings true for so many people at the whim of corporate downsizing, he states that he did his job so well that he ended up streamlining himself out of a job.
Will does eventually find something with a mega corporation led by the ultra-ruthless Katherine (Marcia Gay Harden) in which he can ply his visual trade, but he struggles with the rules of compliance. You know, little things like wearing a suit and tie and not arriving as a cocky know-it-all to every staff meeting. Get a Job follows these various tangents as the characters struggle and deal with their new found “adult” lives. Or, in the case of Cranston’s forty-something-has-been, his uncelebratory emergence back into a job market far leaner and more cutthroat than the one he entered years ago.
Director Kidd, who scored a name for himself in the indie world almost 14 years ago with the verbose and witty Roger Dodger, doesn’t come close to the incisive nature of that film. Written by Kyle Pennekamp and Scott Turpel and shelved for more than a couple years now, Get a Job feels oddly dated, as if it were made to capture the queasy zeitgeist of the 2008 recession without directly name-dropping it.
Even odder is the juxtaposed swings between drama and hard-edged comedy. The most egregious example lies in Will’s time at the job placement firm where he eventually finds work. One co-worker (Alison Brie) continually makes sexual advances towards Will. Gay-Harden, as the aforementioned ruthless CEO, ultimately gets her comeuupance in ways that are easily identified early on. And numerous comments about the “size” of chairman Wilheimer’s (Bruce Davsion) certain body part all add up to cringe-inducing moments that placate the scatological humorist in the audience and nothing more. And don’t even get me started on the extremely gross acts forced upon young Luke at his stock firm, part hazing and part machismo.
All of this undercuts the tone of a film that seemed to have something serious to say about that tenuous time post-college and pre-adulthood where confidence, ability and individuality are formed. I kept thinking it’s unfortunate that a film so dead set on stressing the perils of conformity eventually becomes a conformist comedy with nothing more than puke, pot and sex on the brain.
Get a Job opens on Friday, March 25 in limited release at the Studio Movie Grill Spring Valley.