It’s safe to say we’re well in the midst of the dreaded post-Crimbo slump.
After spending the last few weeks of the year doing nothing but stuffing our faces with pigs in blankets, lounging around with extended family watching Christmas-themed trite on BBC1, and drinking bucket-loads of Buck’s Fizz, it’s finally time to drag ourselves back to our respective places of employment and reluctantly march head-first into the world of work.
With that in mind, I thought I’d compile a list of some of the most draining, miserable, soul-sucking jobs cinema has to offer… you know, to put things in perspective for us all.
MARCELLO MASTROIANNI, 8 ½ – 1963
Let’s boot this off with a classic, shall we? Here’s the patron saint of all Italian slicksters, Marcello Mastroianni, in Federico Fellini’s surrealist tour de force 8 ½.
For those not familiar, 8 ½ is the story of Guido Anselmi (Federico Fellini’s alter-ego), a famous Italian film director who suffers from ‘directors block’ as he attempts to helm a brain-frazzlingly mad science-fiction film.
While directing films might sound like a dream job to some, 8 ½ shows us that it’s not all peaches and cream. It dispels the mythical fables of filmmaking, and shows us that it’s rarely about artistry or creativity – it’s about making exuberant amounts of money.
While Fellini never dismisses the art that goes into cinema, he reveals that, more often than not, it plays second fiddle to the whims of investors and producers, who seem only to care about lining their pockets, which is, unfortunately, the way most films are made these days.
While that all certainly sounds a lot more glamorous than KPIs and what-have-you, I can imagine it’s just as disheartening. Just think of poor old Guido’s struggles next time your boss has brought in some H.R. wally to monitor productivity.
ALEC BALDWIN, GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS – 1992
Next up we’ve got the most successful Baldwin brother in the film adaption of David Mamet’s profanity-laden Pulitzer Prize-winning play Glengarry Glen Ross.
Scripted by Mamet himself, Glengarry Glen Ross depicts two days in the lives of four real estate salesmen, who use desperate and dubious methods to sell naff land to ‘dead-beats’.
While Glengarry Glen Ross is mainly praised for its stellar performances and whip-smart dialogue, I think it’s greatest achievement is how the film depicts how businesses across the pond seemingly love propagating ‘dog-eat-dog’ tactics to make there employees work harder.
At the start of the film, the four real estate agents are treated to a verbal smack-down from a high-flying business ‘motivator’ (Alec Baldwin), who announces that, in one week, the top salesmen will win a Cadillac Eldorado, the second salesmen will win some steak knives, and the other two will be fired. This threat sends the estate agents into a frenzy, forcing them to resort to some form of unsavoury, unethical activity: from lies, to bribery, all the way over to intimidation and burglary.
But don’t fret. That’s the American way of doing things*. Over here, those tactics would probably just provoke employees to begrudgingly bad-mouth their bosses by the water cooler and yell at them after drinking one-too-many Peronis at the Christmas do.
*no disrespect to our American readers
GARY COLE, OFFICE SPACE – 1999
I’m gonna need you to take a look at one of cinema’s finest examples of a truly awful white-collar boss – Gary Cole in Mike Judge’s stellar workplace comedy Office Space.
Office Space concerns itself with the everyday work life of Initech, a parody of a typical mid-to-late-90s software company, whose employees are fed up with their jobs and their callous, smarmy boss Bill Lumbergh (Gary Cole). After the company begins plans to downsize, a trio of employees conspire to bring Initech down and get rich in the process, armed only with the ‘penny shaving’ plot from Superman III.
As well as being gut-bustlingly funny, Office Space perfectly lampoons the micromanaging, middle-management types commonplace in many office workplaces. If you’ve never had the pleasure of working with a geezer like this, they’re the sort that seemingly can only derive pleasure from busy work, bureaucracy and your misery.
If you’re the type of person who revels in the violent destruction of faulty office equipment, this is the film for you.
JESSE EISENBERG, THE DOUBLE – 2013
Here’s a really mint film more people should seek out – Richard Ayoade’s Kafkaesque nightmare The Double.
Based on Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novella of the same name, The Double follows Simon James (Mr. Eisenberg), a meek and insignificant data programmer, who finds his unenviable, pitiful existence usurped by the arrival of his charismatic and cock-sure doppelgänger James Simon (also Mr. Eisenberg).
Throughout most of The Double, Simon is consistently ignored by his colleges and boss, the latter often forgetting who Simon is, despite the fact he’s worked in the office for seven years. Much to Simon’s annoyance, when James arrives he not only gets respect from their co-workers, but no one seems to notice, or care, that they look exactly the same.
You can take comfort in that fact that at least when you decide that your current line of employment isn’t for you any more and you get into horticulture or making artisanal vases out of recycled ready meal packets or whatever, the next unwitting droog ogling your ultra-fancy ergonomic office chair will wait until you’ve even left the building to leap in it… rather than, you know, take over your entire life and seduce your love interest.
LAKEITH STANFIELD, SORRY TO BOTHER YOU – 2018
To round things off, we’ve got Boots Riley’s absurdist satire Sorry to Bother You, which, in the opinion of this humble writer, was one of the best films of last year.
Sorry to Bother You takes place in an alternate present-day version of California, and follows Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield), who, after discovering the magical key to succeeding in the wonderful world of telemarketing, is swept into a absolutely insane corporate conspiracy.
For those that have seen Sorry to Bother You, you’ll understand that “absolutely insane” is a massive understatement. Seriously, this movie is bonkers.
It’s hard to talk about the serious ‘anti-capitalist’ theme of Sorry to Bother You without sounding like someone who waltzes around Manchester’s Northern Quarter wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt and verbally accosting anyone who looks like they’ve never read The Communist Manifesto, so I won’t bore you trying. But if a pitch-black satire that’s equal parts hilarious, absurd, and downright horrifying sounds like your cup of tea, this one is well worth the watch.
… however, I’d maybe give it a miss if you’re a big fan of Jeff Bezos though.
Well, there you have it: some naff jobs, some great films. I hope this has made you a little less reluctant to clock in. And if it hasn’t, you can always go off and live in a commune or something.