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STUDIO: Magnolia Home Entertainment
RUNNING TIME: 99 minutes
• Making of The Job
• Alternate Ending
A mortality tale about the perils of murder, as told by Hellboy.
Starring Patrick Flueger, Ron Perlman, Taryn Manning, Joe Pantoliano
Written and directed by Shem Bitterman
Unemployed and down on his luck, Bubba Brady (Flueger) desperately wants to find work so that he can buy a house for his former-child-actress-cum-waitress girlfriend, Joy (Manning), and live happily ever after. So when a random drifter named Jim (Perlman) stops by the diner and offers Bubba a potential job opportunity through a man named Perriman (Pantoliano), Bubba can’t refuse. Unfortunately, the position involves less manual labor and a lot more cold-blooded murder. But it pays well! Whatever will Bubba do?
“Can’t you just hold it??”
“I really, REALLY GOTTA GO!!”
It’s remarkable to me just how different the mediums of theater and cinema really are. It started off that film was simply planting the camera in front of the actors and letting them do their thing — essentially filmed theater. It had a lot to do with the technology at the time – with cameras so big and huge and noisy, there weren’t many other options – plus the medium was brand new. Then came the innovation: editing, the close up, the montage, widescreen, special effects (not in that order, of course) and a slew of other film techniques that have helped make movies a vastly different beast than its staged brethren.
I’m glad I recently saw The Glass Menagerie performed on the small stage because it put the differences front and center in my mind which helped when I sat down to watch The Job, writer/director Shem Bitterman’s film adaptation of his own play of the same name. And while it definitely feels like a play, The Job works as a movie, too.
“I really gotta talk to those fucking machines. I said, Reagan, not Andy Rooney!”
How exactly does The Job feel like a play? It’s not like a small, dialogue-heavy movie is inherently play-like and I’ll use You Can Count On Me as an example, since it was also the film debut of playwright-turned-screenwriter/director. While not based on a play, Kenneth Lonergan’s brilliant film sheds any theatrical upbringing that he may have brought to the project to feel completely cinematic. On the other hand, The Job carries over some residual stage-ness with it. And that is embodied in the scope of the world created.
While I dug the story and was thoroughly involved in finding out what happened to our tragic hero, Bubba, I couldn’t shake the notion that I was watching carefully plotted fiction. And I blame that on the lack of a fully realized world in which these odd people live. In You Can Count On Me, much of the drama unfolded in their family home, in a bar, and in an office — hardly a globe-trotting, location-rich story — yet Lonergan still made you felt like it was all happening in a real, quaint town. (Arguably, the restaurant scene where Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo meet up for the first time felt a bit play-like; however, these scenes were few and far between.) Meanwhile, The Job felt like it was on a stage, even during the few outdoor scenes.
Percy, for some reason, insisted on saying the line “Why can’t I quit you!?” with a shit-eating grin.
I don’t blame the acting — when based on a play and directed by a playwright has the opportunity for some serious over-acting — which is rather strong, except for Pantoliano, who felt like he was performing on stage, not in front of a camera. Rather, the issue I had was that everything felt like it was taking place on a thin set. It felt like the opposite of how Kurosawa would have the production designer fill the cupboards with dishes of the time period even if the audience would never see them so that the film would be authentic and fully realized. Watching The Job, you get the feeling that the bedroom was constructed with movable walls that if you saw behind them, you’d see unfinished two-by-fours holding them up. And that feeling resonates throughout the film — you feel like the only people existing in this world are the few choice characters that Bitterman lets us see. That everything you’re watching exists in some human ant farm, cut off from the rest of the world. Or like it’s all taking place on an elaborate stage somewhere in a huge theater. That just off camera were stagehands and ladders and ropes to pull closed the curtains for the act break.
But that’s not inherently bad at all. Sure, it’s not stylistically ambitious like you’d find from a Fincher or Aronofsky, but thankfully, a good story well told doesn’t require CG zooms or long, carefully choreographed takes. And I can’t imagine Bitterman had a budget anywhere near those other aforementioned filmmakers, so I respect his decision to put that money in front of the camera to make the best movie he could with what he had. Ultimately, I think it worked because I’ll take a no-frills movie with interesting characters any day over a hollow, flashy piece of numbing bore.
Light, bedside reading.
While The Job didn’t break much ground in the story department — a guy takes an offer he can’t refuse and ends up in way over his head — I enjoyed my hour and a half in front of the TV mainly due to the slightly off, almost otherworldly feeling that it elicted so well. How a stranger (who looks strikingly like Hellboy) rolled into town and just happened to offer Bubba a job opportunity. And the odd way that Bubba went in to met Perriman who asked him odd questions that clearly alluded toward some nefarious work. And how he met the victim sitting in a chair, dressed like he was going to his own funeral. You couldn’t help but feel as if the deck had already been stacked against Bubba long before and he was merely the poor, unlikely soul whose desperation was taken advantage of at the expense of his humanity. As the movie went on, I stopped thinking about You Can Count On Me, and much more of Angel Heart.
Like in Angel Heart, our hapless hero Bubba seems to have no chance at escaping his fate. While Harry Angel comes to realize that he had made a deal with the devil for his soul for which he’s come to collect, Bubba just wants to make a cool one hundred grand and live happily ever after with Joy. Unfortunately, he learns relatively quickly that foregoing your morals for monetary gain rarely works out in tales such as these. When will people learn? I’m assuming not any time soon, which means that we’ll be regaled with many more movies like Bitterman’s The Job.
Ideally they’ll be as strong as his, too.
Oddly enough, the fact that he was wearing dirty tightie-whities were the least of Biff’s worries when company arrived unannounced.
There’s a solid but rather long Making Of featurette that fleshes out the story with interviews with all the major players. A notable fact I learned from it was that the film was shot in Detroit, which could explain why no one else was seen other than the main actors. (Poor, Motown.) I would’ve liked if they had played that up more instead of keeping it as some ambiguous Anytown, USA; Detroit brings such an immediate sense of the blight that it would’ve grounded it in reality instantly. But maybe that would’ve taken away from the neo-noir sensibility of the film that gives it is unique feel.
Also included is an alternate ending. It’s definitely different thematically than the original, but the character arc is essentially the same for Bubba. I dug it; but I think I prefer the one Bitterman chose to go with in the final cut.
“Please don’t disturb my friend. He’s dead tired.”