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Thursday, March 15, 2012

I REALLY HATE MY JOB -- movie review by porfle

(This review originally appeared online at  in 2007.)

You know those long, grueling workdays that are such an ordeal that it seems they'll never end?  I REALLY HATE MY JOB (2007) is a comedy about just such a day in the lives of five women working in a small London restaurant on the Thames.  Unfortunately, watching it is an experience that can be described exactly the same way--it's a long, grueling ordeal that I thought it would never end.

Shirley Henderson plays Alice, a mousy, virginal waitress who aspires to be a writer but ends up filling in for the cook on the night this story takes place.  Alexandra Maria Lara is Suzie, a ditzy, artistic blonde waitress with an off-kilter perception of reality.  A hot-blooded Latina (is there any other kind in the movies?) named Rita (Oana Pellea) is more trouble than help to Alice in the kitchen.  Madonna (Anna Maxwell Martin), who runs the place for the owner although nobody ever listens to her, is a timid lesbian fretting over the fact that her partner said "your slippers repress me" to her.  At least, that's what I think she said--I found the dialogue in this movie hard to decipher much of the time.  Anyway, it was something similarly upsetting.

Finally, there's Neve Campbell as Abbie, the character I most wanted to strap into the electric chair and "roll on two" before it was all over.  She's upset because her boyfriend just broke up with her, frustrated because she's expected to actually work when she's at work, and freaking out because famous actor Danny Huston (yes, that Danny Huston) is expected to show up at the restaurant that night, which aspiring actress Abbie thinks may somehow be her big chance to get noticed for something besides her mewling self-pity and insufferable demeanor. 

Oh yeah, and it's her thirtieth birthday, which means that in just 40 short years, she'll be 70.  Of course, waitresses turn thirty every day--I'll bet some of them are doing it right now.  But then again, she's so much more sensitive, deep, and interesting than everybody else, not.

Toss these characters and their unique personality traits together, mix well, and you've got one of the most soul-deadening and aggressively unentertaining cinematic assaults ever launched against my unsuspecting eyeballs.  At times I simply marvelled at the things I was supposed to perceive as "funny" or "endearing."  When Abbie whines about the high interest rate on her VISA card, Suzie ponders, "Why do they call it 'interest'?  It's so not interesting."  Abbie does a slow take to give us time to finish laughing before the next line. 

They do that a lot in this movie, except for when they use overlapping dialogue and chaotic action to "screwball" things up.  The director, Oliver Parker, also plays a lot of little editing tricks here and there to emphasize certain things, which I really wished he'd stop doing.  I thought about writing him an email that simply said "STOP DOING THAT!", but of course by that time it was too late.

Meanwhile back in the kitchen, Alice is positively exhausting to watch as she frantically crams inedible meals together while Rita does comedy relief stuff like jerking around to salsa music and obsessing over rats.  Rita does have one good line as she and Alice yak at each other amidst the ear-splitting cacophony:  "You know, sometimes you have the smugness of a hippy fascist."  Which was actually amusing enough to make me not want to go on a tri-state killing spree for a few seconds.

While all of this frantic activity is going on, the dining room itself seems sparsely populated by docile, unobtrusive zombies who do hateful, provocative things such as asking what the specials are or requesting a wine list.  Oh, my god!  The horror of such outrageous indignities drives Abbie to sarcastically berate them for their impertinence.  Can't these self-obsessed cretins see she's frustrated and fraught with intense feelings of insecurity?  She just turned thirty, dammit!  How dare they expect a pleasant dining experience.

Thank goodness, while she's running the bar she has time to engage in lengthy conversations with Suzie because nobody ever approaches it and asks for anything.  Most of the time the customers might as well be played by mannequins, the place is so dead.  And yet we're supposed to believe it's bustling with enough non-stop activity to drive each of the haggard employees to the frazzled brink of insanity.

On the plus side, some of the rat scenes are mildly funny.  A few startling closeups of Rita flailing around jar us out of our stupor now and then.  There's a scene after closing time in which poor Madonna finally breaks down and elicits a twinge of sympathy from her idiot coworkers.  Danny Huston (I finally remembered seeing him in the Aussie western THE PROPOSITION a few years ago) shows up at last in a top hat and tails, and suddenly the movie turns into a black-and-white fantasy that looks like something out of a Taco video. 

Oh, and before I forget, Neve does a gratuitous nude scene near the end.  This would normally be relatively noteworthy, but by that time I was near death and slipping in and out of a coma.  I vaguely recall feeling sorry for her for having to get nekkid for a movie like this, right before everything went black.  But don't worry, Neve Campbell fans, because this part is probably already floating around out there online somewhere.

When I REALLY HATE MY JOB finally dragged its steaming carcass across the finish line, I felt totally drained, as though I'd just put in a hard, stressful shift at work myself.  I could only sit there, numb, until my mind began to slowly emerge from the deep state of stupefication into which it had descended for the last hour-and-a-half.  I'd love to end this with a lame, obvious quip like "Forget your job--I really hate this movie!" but somebody else has probably beaten me to it by now.

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