The Job is my kind of movie. Ambiguous without being frustrating, peppered with the right amount of dark comedic touches, and with a visual palate that looks like a spaghetti dinner Terry Gilliam might split with The Coen Brothers until their lips met on a shared noodle, The Job is a highly entertaining dark comedy about murder, puzzles and personal salvation. Oh, and Joe Pantoliano sporting some bushy white eyebrows. But more on that later.
Written and directed by Shem Bitterman, The Job is adapted from his 1998 play of the same name. Patrick Flueger stars as Bubba, a down on his luck everyman who is given a new lease on life after a chance encounter with a mysterious drifter played by Ron Perlman.
Bubba has been laid off almost a dozen times in the last year. Fired for one reason or another, the young man may be humbled but he still remains a good person — stopping to share what little cash he has with the local homeless populance. It’s as he sits highlighting newspaper classified ads in his favorite diner that he meets Jim, a boisterous drifter with a penchant for cowboy hats and jackets with tassels.
Jim quickly befriends Bubba — buying him dinner in exchange for a shower and a sleeping bag. An open ear and a friendly face, Jim listens as Bubba unloads his worries about his career path (or lack thereof). In response, Jim offers Bubba a lead on a possible career — an address for a mysterious job placement service.
Bubba, out of other options, quickly accepts Jim’s kindness and pays the career placement service a visit. Greeting him at the employment agency is Mr. Perriman, a Ebenezer Scrooge-looking Joe Pantoliano sporting great big white bushy eyebrows. Perriman offers Bubba the opportunity of a lifetime. In exchange for $200 thousand, Bubba must kill the hapless son-in-law of a powerful toy manufacturer. The son-in-law has screwed the family over and the only way to right his wrongs is through death. If Bubba strangles the life out of the man, he’ll be given enough money to live comfortably with the woman he loves (Taryn Manning) for the rest of their lives.
Unfortunately, Bubba isn’t much of the killing type. His new pal Jim, though, is all too willing to help out. In exchange for half of the money, Jim is willing to do the strangling for Bubba.
From there, the plot twists into a series of escalating mistakes — putting Bubba in a position where he’ll have to chip away at his good nature in order to achieve the sort of life he and his woman dream about.
The Job is a dark comedy that mixes some seriously macabre hijinks with the same type of vague climax ambiguity that made Donnie Darko such a fun film to theorize about. The Job is a film that swims Scrooge McDuck-style through genres as varied as noir, caper and supernatural pre-destination — all wrapped in an existential Snuggie. By the time religious overtones are drizzled over the plot, audiences will be lapping up the beautifully weird plot and Terry Gilliam-esque characters like they were cats drinking out of a Salvador Dali-designed saucer.
There’s no easy way to describe the movie’s tone but imagine a Twin Peaks-era David Lynch directing A Simple Plan with a script written by Charlie Kaufman — who just happens to be drunk on Four Lokos. Now imagine you’re watching that film’s older brother — a movie that spends all his time in the basement smoking weed and tinkering with old microwaves. If you’re able to picture something like that, you’d have a film close to the off-kilter merriment of The Job.
Part of what makes The Job so enjoyable is the out-of-character performances from the film’s supporting cast. Perlman and Pantoliano both give flamboyant performances from an area just outside their usual wheelhouse. Perlman, for example, is an easygoing huckster — more a grifter Yogi Bear than the usual strong and silent type he plays. Kind to Bubba but with perhaps his own ulterior motives at play, Jim is a great friend — as long as it leads Bubba down the path he needs to go.
With his elderly man make-up, Joe Pantoliano seems to really be playing Scrooge — soft spoken and with a malicious twinkle in his eye.
Both actors give such off-the-wall performances, they help to sell the film’s quirky ensemble mystery.
The film’s 1:78:1 anamoprhic transfer video looks pretty spiffy. The washed out color palette is admirably represented though a crisp image. The sound is pretty standard considering the film doesn’t make any grand use out of the various stereo channels.
Making-of Featurette — A nearly 30-minute look at the film’s making, interviews are present with nearly all of the movie’s top cast and crew. Informative enough to warrant a watch if you’re bored, the feature isn’t required viewing unless you’re dying to see behind-the-scenes footage from the film’s production.
Alternate Ending — A brief scene that pales in comparison to the director-chosen climax.
The Job is a film that begs for repeat viewings, if only to further gleam some understanding from the movie’s slightly obstructed message. The truth behind The Job is hidden beneath a slightly dense fog of supernatural overtones and just slightly barred demons (both real and figurative) There is some serious stuff going on within the movie’s boundaries — enough to make you want to take the journey again. The Job is an earworm of a movie — wonderfully strange enough to allow the movie to burrow itself into your subconsciousness until it lays eggs that will eventually hatch and infest your thoughts.
Magnolia Pictures presents The Job. Directed by: Shem Bitterman. Starring: Patrick Flueger, Ron Perlman, Taryn Manning and Joe Pantoliano. Written by: Shem Bitterman. Running time: 107 minutes. Rating: R. Released on DVD: July 27, 2010.
Tags: Charlie Kaufman, David Lynch, Ron Perlman, Terry Gilliam, The Coen Brothers, Twin Peaks