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Get a Job

D: Dylan Kidd / 83m

Cast: Miles Teller, Anna Kendrick, Bryan Cranston, Nicholas Braun, Brandon T. Jackson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Marcia Gay Harden, Alison Brie, Jay Pharaoh, Bruce Davison, Cameron Richardson, Greg Germann, Jorge Garcia, John C. McGinley, Seth Morris, John Cho

Be yourself. The movies are always telling us to be ourselves. If we do that then the world is our oyster, and we can achieve anything. But what if your name is Miles Teller? What if, back in 2014 you appeared in a movie called Whiplash, and right at that moment when the world was your oyster and you were on the brink of achieving anything, what would you do next? Would you capitalise on the recognition you’ve received as a dramatic actor and use it to land bigger, better roles? Or would you continue making comedies (romantic and straightforward), or would you try something a little different?

Since Whiplash, Teller’s cinematic output has been patchy at best. He’s appeared in all three Divergent movies (albeit in a supporting role), a romantic comedy, Two Night Stand (2014), an out-and-out comedy, That Awkward Moment (2014), and some superhero movie it’s best not to talk about. Later this year he’ll be back on funny man duties with Jonah Hill in War Dogs. It won’t be until either much later this year or in 2017 that we’ll see Teller in serious mode again. In the meantime, we have another comedy to wade through, the sporadically amusing Get a Job, a movie that feels like the kind of project Teller should have been making at the start of his career.

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He plays Will Davis, recently graduated and with a job at a local newspaper. His specialty is video reviews, but he’s soon fired thanks to cutbacks. Looking around for a job that suits him he ends up working for a recruitment firm that specialises in making video CVs for professionals looking to make an impression on potential employers. Meanwhile his father, Roger (Cranston) also finds himself out of a job after thirty years. He quickly identifies an ideal job for his skills, but he can’t get to the one man who has the power to say yes or no, the fabled decision maker. And while the Davis men face a variety of obstacles both in and out of work, Will’s friends – stoner Charlie (Braun), commodities broker Luke (Jackson), and sleazy app designer Ethan (Mintz-Plasse) – have similar problems navigating the choppy waters of employment. And then Will’s girlfriend, Jillian (Kendrick), also loses her job.

Right from the movie’s start it’s clear that the script by Kyle Pennekamp and Scott Turpel isn’t going to be as tightly constructed or relevant to today’s modern day job market as it may have intended, and actually that’s okay. Get a Job is a piece of fluff, an inconsequential movie whose message – be yourself, remember? – floats on the surface of its semi-humorous approach to job-seeking. It’s a movie to be watched when there’s nothing better on, or when you need to switch off your brain and let a movie just wash over you. And thanks to Messrs Pennekamp and Turpel, along with the movie’s director, that’s exactly what you get.

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But even inconsequential movies need to entertain, and Get a Job drops the ball too often to succeed. Three things we’re meant to find funny: Will taking dexedrine in order to work late(!) and behaving manically; Luke being coerced into drinking deer sperm to get ahead at work; and Ethan’s pervy iStalkYou app, that lets the user find someone even if they don’t want to be. With these and many more uneven attempts at provoking laughter, the movie is in constant search of a consistent comedic tone, and while there are some occasions when it’s successful, it does so against the odds. Teller and Kendrick are old hands at this sort of thing but even they can’t drag the material out of the rut it imposes on itself. The only cast member who seems to have the measure of things is Cranston; next to everyone else his is the only character whose situation you can sympathise with, and whose performance is actually enjoyable.

And like a lot of modern comedies, the viewer isn’t invited to like the characters in the movie, or even get to know them. They all have prescribed character arcs, and they all face challenges that are meant to show they can grow and be responsible as they take on adult roles. And although there is a definite “be yourself” vibe, and one that the movie maintains throughout, ultimately it’s done in such a conservative way that the message is worthless. Like so many other movies of its ilk, what Get a Job is really saying is be yourself for a while but only until regular society says it’s time to put that behind you, and be like everyone else. (American movies celebrate the individual with such persuasion.)

GAJ - scene1

The movie also falls back on too many tried and trusted scenarios to be fresh enough to work (ironically). Will has a boss, Katherine (Harden), who proves to be a ballbuster, but a fortunate discovery redresses the balance; Jillian won’t smoke from a bong – until the script decides she has to; Charlie appears to have no clue about being a teacher but he turns out to be inspirational; and Will’s early encounter with a pimp (Pharaoh) proves to be the most important working connection he ever makes. The performances, with many of the cast treading water (and with Teller and Kendrick proving the main offenders), are adequate without being memorable, and many scenes fall flat as a result.

Overseeing everything, Kidd doesn’t seem able to add any panache to proceedings, leaving the movie to coast along in its own wake, or run aground when the script loses momentum. However, there is one moment where the movie makes a relevant observation: when Jillian tells Will she’s been let go she mentions that she’s ninety thousand dollars in debt, no doubt a reference to the student loans she took out in order to get through college and/or university. It’s a throwaway comment, but it’s a better angle for a movie than the one used here.

Rating: 5/10 – the kind of movie that looks as if it’s a contractual obligation for all concerned, Get a Job could be retitled Get a Grip, or Get a Move On, or even Get a Life, such are the various ways it approaches its basic storyline; formulaic and only mildly amusing, it’s a movie that doesn’t really try too hard, but when it does, the extra effort doesn’t add up to much.