Last week saw the release of Gimme the Loot, the SXSW Grand Jury Prize winner by Adam Leon, which sees two graffiti artists seek revenge after their replica of the…
Didier Cros‘ biting documentary The Job is essentially The Apprentice on steroids; ten unemployed hopefuls enter a board room expecting a job interview, only to find that they are to be pitted against each other in a series of gruelling challenges, with a minimum wage job waiting at the end of the rainbow. By the marathon’s end, the candidates are sweating, and Cros has shed a light on the oppressive power dynamic between interviewees and their prospective employers.
Where The Apprentice exploits its trumped-up “reality” label (pun intended) for cheap laughs, The Job opts to play it straight, and attempts to evoke a more nuanced, emotional response to the stigmatization of unemployment as represented by the ten candidates. The degree of success, however, is a mixed bag because our understanding of the candidates is rather shallow. While it is indeed easy to feel for them as they are grilled in an interview by five inscrutable executives, the film never goes beyond the surface to reveal the backgrounds of any of these people. Though The Job (unlike The Apprentice) in no way attempts to make melodrama of the competition, the film ignores the audience’s desire to pick a horse and root for it. Commentary and observation are limited to the recruitment challenge at hand, and a detached tone is maintained throughout.
Of course, this wouldn’t be such a problem if the film didn’t demand emotional investment. But we are implicitly asked to take up arms with the candidates against the merciless executives, and ask how they could send away these put-upon individuals without batting an eyelash. Instead, our lack of understanding places the viewer squarely in the shoes of the employer who – in one of the film’s recurring metaphors – refuse to look at the candidates’ CVs. By denying access to their inner lives, the film somewhat paradoxically prevents us from becoming attached to the people involved.
The Job is more easily observed on an intellectual level, as an examination of the lengths to which people will go to obtain even the most menial of jobs in a post-recession era, and the power that is exercised over them. The whole process has a “mice in a maze” vibe to it, as candidates are made to attack or mock each other to the amusement of the watching recruiters. Perhaps the most illuminating question posed is “is it worth it?”. The candidates say yes, as the alternative is the harsh failure of decay and unemployment. However, there is a dawning sense towards the end of the film that the recruiters are seeking not the most qualified or competent candidates, but rather the most impressionable, the easiest to mold. Thus we are meant to wonder whether obtaining (and accepting) the job is not in some way a failure of an entirely different kind; a backhanded compliment commending your willingness to submit to authority. There is a constant tension at work, dramatizing the relinquishing of one’s values and individualism for the sake of a minimum wage salary, all measured within the context of a job market that makes no room for anyone. The Job raises plenty of provocative questions that will make for excellent post-show debate at the nearest cafe.
To close, it is worth reiterating that The Job is a lot like The Apprentice on steroids. It takes socal issues that bubble under the surface of “reality” TV’s favorite comb-over, and brings them to the forefront. While not successful in every regard, it does manage to accomplish the difficult feat of removing “the boardroom” from a long list of post-millenium TV euphemisms. And it provides some nourishing food for thought too.
The Job is screening at Hot Docs on Friday, April 27, 2012 at 9:00 pm, Sunday, April 29, 2012 at 1:30 pm and Sunday, May 6, 2012 at 1:15 pm. Check the Hot Docs website for tickets and additional details.
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