“I’m 22 yearsold and I have no idea what to do with my life. And I’m okay with that.”
Fresh out of college and full of dreams, a group of young adults face the daunting task of finding work in Get a Job. Will (Miles Teller) and Jillian (Anna Kendrick) are ready to get on with life, except Will doesn’t have a job yet—in fact, he’s not really sure what he should be doing. He’s got a roommate who is trying to develop a cell phone app to get rich, another who is trying to parlay his business degree into a place at a stock trading firm, and one who is going to teach chemistry to middle schoolers. They spend most of their time, however, sitting around doing video games and getting high. When Will’s father (Bryan Cranston) loses his job of thirty years, he too is looking for work. When Will does find a job, it is less than satisfying—it may even be the kind of job that might ask him to sell his soul, especially under the influence of his wicked boss (Marcia Gay Harden).
It’s not so much a story of looking for work as it is a story that seeks to consider what makes work valuable in our lives. That ties it into the way our culture has adopted the Protestant work ethic. I find it interesting the way this slacker comedy is really an affirmation of that work ethic, although from a very modern perspective. Will and his father have a different understanding of work and different approaches to their job search, but at a basic level, they both are looking for something that will give their lives meaning. The very act of working and being productive is enough for Will’s father. Will (and his cohort) are still searching for meaning and each, in his or her own way, stumbles into finding value in the work they find.
A key foil in the film is the idea that many of the generation portrayed in the film experienced: the idea that feeling special comes from even the most modest achievement. Should everyone get a trophy for being in sports, or does it lose its value if it is not earned? That is the kind of question that the Protestant work ethic deals with by placing work into the fabric of life’s meaning. (It should be noted that while, as the name suggests, the Protestant work ethic has a religious component and background, it is so incorporated into our culture that it can be considered a secular phenomenon as well.) As the characters in this film discover as they search formeaning for their lives, a key element of happiness is finding your mission and living it out. In a comedy such as this, however, that mission may be a bit vulgar and crude—but a mission all the same.
Photos courtesy of Lionsgate Premiere