As many students probably know, working in hospitality is rarely fun. For many of us it’s an easy occupation to get in to, but much harder to enjoy. This great wee independent film, much in the style of Clerks, captures perfectly the milieu of long hours, hard work, poor pay and treatment, and the bane of all wait-staff’s lives, the customer. (There are also some great New Pornographers songs.)
Set in a quirky diner representing the typical American family restaurant (think Denny’s, or Cobb & Co.) called Shenaniganz, the cast endure a fairly normal night of work, with family and relationship issues, angst over fading dreams, and the over-arching concept of mind-numbing, pointless and apathetic futility that is so prevalent amongst our demographic. We are shown one shift as newbie is encouraged to forget his training and instead learn the flow and essence of the place – mainly consisting of a staff-wide competition known as ‘The Game’, in which lewd and disgusting (and therefore highly funny) hi-jinks ensue to lighten the shifts. Worryingly, this game has been played at many places I’ve worked over the years.
Their lives consist of work, acting-up, bitching and drinking – an empty and repetitive slog that has clearly worn away the resolve of all the workers. Each find their own ways to deal with it, escapism from the drudgery and fear of their (apparent) dead-end lives. Main character Dean (Justin Long) suffers the grilling that all parents give about their aspirations for us, and is ultimately disillusioned and insulted when serving an old school friend who has apparently “done something with his life”. He generously tips him, stating: “you need this more than I do.”
There is the smooth-talking and lecherous Monty (Ryan Reynolds) who lusts after the underage staff, stoner kitchen-hands, wise old black men and the archetypical but ever-so-present manager who takes his life and job way too seriously. Although it appears a little shallow and of that terrible ‘teen movie’ genre, as a student and sometime wage-slave I, like many others, can identify with this film and take not only deep messages, but light-hearted entertainment from it as well.
DIRECTED BY ROB MCKITTRICK