The year was 2012.
It was a simpler time …
Well, maybe not that much simpler, but it WAS quite a while ago. Consider the career statuses of Anna Kendrick, Miles Teller and Bryan Cranston when they filmed “Get a Job” in 2012.
It was just before the first “Pitch Perfect” was released and catapulted Kendrick’s career to the next level, and prior to films such as “The Spectacular Now” and “Whiplash” serving notice Teller was a major talent. As for Cranston, “Breaking Bad” was deep into its run — but he had yet to complete the journey of Walter White or win an Oscar nomination for playing Dalton Trumbo.
Directed by the talented Dylan Kidd (“Roger Dodger,” “P.S.”) and also starring Marcia Gay Harden, Alison Brie, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jay Pharoah and John C. McGinley, “Get a Job” had an abundance of name recognition and a commercially accessible storyline about recently graduated millennials trying to gain a foothold in the workplace while also attempting to define themselves — but it lingered in Movie Limbo for four years before finally a simultaneous limited theatrical and VOD release.
Such a delay is rarely good news, and indeed “Get a Job” is an uneven, strange little movie with a hit-and-miss screenplay, some distractingly weird camera angles and a few subplots that never should have seen the light of day (or the dark of theater), but it also has an infectious charm, some genuinely funny set pieces and winning performances throughout.
Teller plays the earnest if slightly smug Will, a newly minted college graduate who has spent much of the last four years creating original digital content for YouTube. After two internships at L.A. Weekly, Will has been promised a job upon graduation, Will shows up at the offices bursting with ideas and energy — only to be told by an editor (John Cho) there’s no longer room for him at the newspaper.
Will’s buddies divide their time between getting high and playing video games — and looking for work. (The smartest and funniest plot thread regarding the buddies centers on Nicholas Braun’s Charlie, a devoted pothead who reluctantly takes a job as a middle school chemistry teacher but finds his priorities as the months go by.)
Kendrick plays Will’s girlfriend Jillian, who has her act together and has already embarked on a real career. (Although there are indications early on Jillian hasn’t fully cracked the code when it comes to living as a responsible adult.)
Cranston is Will’s father, a successful businessman who suddenly finds himself downsized — and looking for gainful employment for the first time in 30 years.
Alison Brie, who usually plays sweet and demure types, is a foul-mouthed, lascivious treat as Tanya, a slightly batty temptress who works at a job placement firm where Will finds employment as a director-producer of video resumes. Marcia Gay Harden hams it up as Will’s no-nonsense boss, who alternates between encouraging Will and reminding him she owns him. John C. McGinley, who has cornered a certain market on tightly wound, alpha male jerks with just a thread of likability, is terrific playing just that sort of character.
Even though “Get a Job” is a bit dusty, it still makes relevant points about how modern-day twentysomethings are told again and again they’re not the greatest generation or even the second-greatest generation. Maybe not even in the Top 10. Cranston and Teller have a nice, authentic father-son dynamic, the romance between Teller and Kendrick feels about right in its depiction of love between adults just starting their life paths, and about half the raunchy stuff delivers laughs.
The movie world would have survived had “Get a Job” never seen the light of day. But it’s always a bit of a shame when films — even the bad ones — don’t at least get an opportunity to be seen and heard.
In this case, the imperfect work mired in storage all this time gets a well-deserved spin.
Lionsgate Premiere presents a film directed by Dylan Kidd and written by Kyle Pennekamp and Scott Turpel. Running time: 82 minutes. Rated R (for crude and sexual content, nudity, drug use and language). Opening Friday at AMC South Barrington 30 and on demand.