It is pretty common to have a few movies that languish unreleased “on the shelf” for years. Usually these are festival hits that for whatever reason are unable to get major studio backing and released. The horror anthology Trick ‘r Treat is a perfect example. Given that most original movies die a quick death in theaters – along with sequels that do not include the words “Star Wars” or “Marvel” in their titles – many movies have been going direct to home release via iTunes, Amazon, and Redbox. Former box office powerhouses Bruce Willis and Nicolas Cage seem to have cornered the market in generic cop/serial killer thrillers that never see the inside of a movie theater. I haven’t actually watched any of them but I can’t fault Bruno for wanting work between increasingly awful Die Hard movies.
For every lost gem like Trick ‘r Treat there are dozens that are on that shelf for a reason. Which brings us to today’s offering, Get A Job. Don’t be fooled by the 2016 release date, it was actually filmed in 2012 which helps explains the roster of acting talent that would sign up for this. Set during the aftermath of the last recession, this misbegotten misfire of a comedy boasts an impressive cast and saddles them in tonally inconsistent, unrealistic and largely unfunny situations. None of the actors are going to lose a job over this piffle of a movie but the director, Dylan Kidd, might.
Miles Teller leads an all-star cast as Will, an over confident millennial struggling to find a job that will let him be him and pursue his love of video making. He is dating Jillian (Anna Kendrick) and she just started a high profile job at a national firm. I think it was Johnson & Johnson but it was only mentioned once and Kendrick is largely treated as an after-thought. Brian Cranston plays Will’s dad, Roger. He just lost his job and is back out on the hunt for a new gig. Will also has a set of roommates that all have their own troubles to navigate and its largely easier to just look at the cast list on IMDB than recount them all. I have no idea how the producers got this cast even in 2012 but they squander the talent at every opportunity.
Those poor bastards.
Get a Job is one of the most depressing comedies I have ever seen and I’ve sat through The Love Guru. The message seems to be to follow your dreams and do what it takes to make it. Even if that includes drinking deer cum in front of your co-workers as one of our heroes does. Or creating a creepy app that allows you to locate anyone by sending a text, regardless of whether they want to be found or not. Or being forced to wear a suit to work. Which is apparently really dehumanizing and hurts Will’s individuality and we are supposed to give a damn about his sad feelings and not want to smack him upside the head and say “Put down the goddamn bong, tuck in your shirt, and go to work you entitled slacker dipshit! No one gives a fuck about your feelings!”
It doesn’t help that the narrative is contrived and doesn’t allow for the characters to have a moment of honest interaction. We follow Will, his roommates and father through their work place hi-jinks but never see Jillian outside her apartment or Will’s. So when she loses her job it lands with a shrug because the audience has no idea what she does anyway. Why did she get fired? Who knows? Or cares? Meanwhile one of Will’s roommates is a fifth grade chemistry teacher who spends all his time getting baked and having the students cook munchies for him. Somehow he gets offered to coach the pee-wee basketball team where he Learns a Lesson™ that is conveniently the exact same one Will intones to the audience during voice over at the beginning of the movie. The lesson? Giving out trophies for showing up has created a generation of big ego/low skill level young adults flooding the job market with no realistic idea for how the corporate world really works. To this I say, “Duh!”
The morals are scatter shot and the performers are largely given a single character note and told to run with it. Jorge Garcia appears as a mysterious janitor at Will’s firm, Allison Brie shows up as a sex obsessed colleague, John C. McGinley plays a hard ass broker, and so forth. They even get Jay Pharaoh to appear and then cast him as a pimp booking his clients at a hotel owned inexplicably by Mark Maron. This cast seems overstuffed in 2016 but keep in mind Get A Job was set for original release in 2012. This was prior to Anna Kendrick’s break out in Pitch Perfect, Miles Teller had yet to do The Spectacular Now and Whiplash, Marc Maron was unknown outside of hipster circles.
So many things torpedo the movie from working but it really comes down to sloppy execution. At one point Will is offered a VP position at his job placement firm, the salary is a whopping $52,000 a year. Earlier we learned that the clients of the firm are paying $30,000 for their services each. Will should have laughed his boss’ face at that offer, yet he considers and agonizes over it. Roger is obsessed with working for Xerox and stalks the CEO during his search because he is convinced the man is “the decision maker”; a term that starts to sound more and more ominous as Cranston’s dialogue comes to include the phrase in every sentence he utters. Roger spends most of his day for months on end at a coffee shop (pretty sure he never tells his wife he’s out of work) and gets advice from the young barista that works there. You keep thinking something is going to be done with her character but nope, she is largely window dressing. An impossibly good natured, optimistic, beautiful window dressing whose only function is to motivate Roger to believe in himself. Blech.
Anna Kendrick doesn’t fare any better. Even as Will’s existential job crisis is taken care of (should he accept the promotion and sell out, or go work for a skeezy Axe Body Spray knock off that allows him to follow his raunchy muse? Decisions, decisions!) we never learn what happened to Jillian and her job situation. Or they did and I blanked it out, that is a distinct possibility. The movie is under 90 minutes but feels like 3 hours. Get a Job is the cinematic equivalent of white rice and just as bland and unsatisfying. You shouldn’t be surprised to find out there is a wise stripper who exists only so the movie can show her boobs. It’s that classic Game of Thrones style sexposition that everyone loves from circa, well, 2012 actually.
Bottom line is Get a Job has a top flight cast, but is a terrible movie that looks like it came out of a time capsule. If you like the actors do yourself a favor and watch Pitch Perfect, Whiplash, Community, and Breaking Bad instead. I have no doubt they would probably give you the same advice.