“I Really Hate My Job” (2007)

by A.J. Hakari

 

Whenever I see a movie character gripe about their unglamorous job, a little part of me wants to reply, “What makes you so special?” The mere notion of an actor who’s getting cut a check to say how much being a wage slave bites is a tough sell on its own. That’s why it pays to be smart like Clerks and nudge one’s directionless protagonist(s) down the road to enlightenment by way of funny, observant dialogue. Or you can be like I Really Hate My Job and boast 90 minutes of self-absorbed bellyachers who inspire nothing but the urge to avoid their place of business at any cost.

Performers. Artists. Philosphers. These are what the staff of a small London bistro wish they could be instead of waitressing their lives away. But here they are, frying up pans of charred chicken and serving lattes on a dinner shift where it seems like everyone’s frustration over their unfulfilled dreams is at a breaking point. Alice (Shirley Henderson) got her first novel rejected, Abi (Neve Campbell) can’t land a legit acting gig, and Madonna (Anna Maxwell Martin) is trying to keep both the restaurant and her love life afloat. But over the course of the evening, these ladies and their co-workers gradually wise up to the idea that no matter how badly things may suck right now, there’s always someone around who’s sick of hearing your bitching.

I Really Hate My Job is the workplace comedy at its most shallow. Monologues are delivered by the pageful, and voices are dramatically raised just as often, but with no intelligence and to no discernable end. What we do get is a day in the life of some fairly awful people who are terrible at their jobs to begin with without ducking away to air out their egos every five minutes anyway. All the characters offer is a laundry list of complaints that they should be doing what their hearts tell them, when it’s obvious from the start that they themselves are the only ones standing in their way. Director Oliver Parker (who made 2002’s quite good The Importance of Being Earnest) forgets to grant his players any sense of acknowledgement, that realization of being masters of their own destinies and that suffering a bit is a part of getting what you want.

Yeah, that’d be nice, but the flick is too busy with out-of-place actor cameos, gratuitous fantasy sequences, and subplots that bring us no closer to understanding what irks the characters other than that they’re irked. The closest I Really Hate My Job comes to having a heart is with Alexandra Maria Lara’s Suzie, a somewhat spacey but sweetheart of a server who sees the world as one snapshot after another. But the other actresses, talented as they’ve been before and will continue to be long after this career detour is forgotten, are swept away by the shared bitterness of their roles with no hope of rescue. Worse yet, the story ends on a note that brings no closure to precedings, only the queasy indication that these people are going to be miserable jerks until the end of days.

I Really Hate My Job is no witty character piece (a la Clerks) or broad revenge fantasy (a la Horrible Bosses). Like its characters, the film is more than eager to rant itself hoarse but unwilling to not only work through its issues but even tell us what those issues are exactly. The title is a real attention-grabber, but I Really Hate My Job imparts no vicarious therapy for the world’s working schmoes.

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