The regrettable new Dylan Kidd-helmed life-after-college and career prospectus comedy “Get A Job” is such a baffling endeavor the callow movie could conceivably come with its own milk carton campaign asking: “Where is Dylan Kidd and what have you done with him?” More than just “off brand,” the lamentable film — a sitcom-y mash of broad jokes, vulgar asides and juvenile scenarios — is shockingly devoid of the promise of his earlier works. The filmmaker behind the critically acclaimed indies “P.S.” (2004) and “Roger Dodger” (2002), (the latter of which helped launch the career of Jesse Eisenberg) both were sharp, observant and affecting efforts — “P.S.” examining the ache of lost loves, and “Roger Dodger” offering a caustically masculine look at male/female dynamics.
After these two rich efforts — both of which were invited to prestigious festivals like Telluride, Toronto and Venice — Kidd seemingly vanished. With only some sparse TV directing credits to his name in the years since, he surfaces with his first feature film in a whopping 12 years with “Get A Job”; a delayed effort shot four years ago. Kidd’s belated third picture centers on Will Davis (Miles Teller), a dynamic 20-something, former self-starter, who finds himself lost at sea in the real world after previously thriving in a college atmosphere. As he tells it, Will comes from a generation of young adults that were “applauded” from their first successful potty training, and he seems to blame his floundering on an era of parenting that bolstered his false sense of brashness instead of success dropping in his lap.
Meanwhile, times are getting tough. His dad (Bryan Cranston) becomes unemployed and his flourishing girlfriend (Anna Kendrick) is becoming increasingly impatient with this new Will that can’t seem to get a grip on adulthood or get his shit together. As Will struggles to find work, he eventually leverages his YouTube skills to land a job at a corporate firm that handles executive placement — a rigid workplace characterized by an overbearing boss played by Marcia Gay Harden and psycho lackey played by Alison Brie. But of course, selling his soul to “the man” to please friends and family leaves Will feeling creatively stifled and confused about his true calling in life.
Perhaps meant to be pitched in the vein of a Judd Apatow coming-of-age comedy, or a similarly styled Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg-led effort, the movie’s witless tone and infantile mien resembles neither nor possesses the heart of the former or the hilarity of the latter. The film’s sophomoric tenor often veers wildly about. Alison Brie’s character, for example, is a nymphette that probably belongs in a raunchy R-rated teen comedy, and the film can’t really decide if it wants to be a Todd Phillips effort, a goofy Movie Of The Week, or more congenial MOR comedy. Often the patchy effort attempts to be all three from scene to scene.
Somewhere in the thick lies a movie that wants to examine a coddled generation weaned on the instant gratification of social media, the notions of millennial entitlement and the very human anxieties of grasping a toehold on adulthood once the security net of education is over. While there are hints of these themes running through the body of Kidd’s films, they are buried underneath juvenile sex jokes, cartoonish side characters and tedious subplots involving stoner roommates and bros (a cadre of idiots played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Brandon T. Jackson and Nicholas Braun; Jay Pharoah also appears in a pimp subplot that is otherwise too stupid to mention further). While there are hints of humiliation, desperation and the emotionally pained textures of rejection and indifference, they play second fiddle to tedious jokes and poorly stitched-together gags.
In a parallel universe, Kid would have followed the same career trajectory of smart, observant filmmakers like Joshua Marston (“Maria Full Of Grace”), Ira Sachs (“Love Is Strange”) or Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (“Half Nelson”), but he seems to possess no instincts or control for this brand of comedy, which makes the entire effort smell even hinkier. “Get A Job” is the equivalent of Kidd’s “Accidental Love” — the disastrous and ultimately mishandled comedic effort that David O. Russell removed his name from. But similarly, as much as “Accidental Love” was sabotaged by a studio that finished it without its director, even the best version of that film seems inherently misguided. Having experienced a labored editing delay, its clear that someone meddled with “Get A Job”, as the godawful, pedestrian score by Jonathan Sadoff reeks of someone else’s terrible decision. But while there’s the temptation to lay blame at the feet of the producers, “Get A Job” feels fundamentally foolhardy, and it’s difficult to remove all culpability from the filmmaker himself.
Perhaps the biggest miscalculation for something this unrefined and frequently coarse is the absence of anything resembling endearing characters. Miles Teller already has tendencies towards the cocky and the movie makes it impossible to empathize with a post-collegiate millennial who believes the workforce owes him something (spoiler: it does not).
There’s a story here somewhere and if you’re listening Dylan Kidd, we’d love to hear it. Because, while more disposable than detestable, “Get A Job” is something of a tragedy when you understand the promise of this filmmaker’s early works. While he never ascended to the ranks of the upper echelon of celebrated indie filmmakers, Kidd certainly demonstrated the real deal chops and goods. However, the unfortunately flailing “Get A Job” only points to either massive studio compromise or a filmmaker who has somehow lost the mastery of his once-auspicious occupation. [D]