Holding a lengthy post-production delay against a movie isn’t really fair. Sometimes terrific films wind up trapped in limbo for years when their distributor goes under (which is what happened to Xavier Dolan’s prize-winning I Killed My Mother); sometimes, as with Kenneth Lonergan’s insanely ambitious Margaret, sincere efforts to get the project right result in endless bickering and lawsuits. All the same, there’s a natural tendency to think that movies go stale after sitting on the shelf for a long time, and Get A Job, which was shot back in 2012 but is only now seeing the light of day, will reinforce such assumptions. Not only is this ensemble unemployment comedy labored and witless, but it bears the unmistakable scars of a protracted and ultimately failed struggle in the editing room, with references to key scenes that aren’t in the final cut. The sole winner here is Miles Teller, as Get A Job was intended to be his first starring role; instead, a post-Whiplash release ensures that his career won’t be derailed by one notable flop.
The same can’t necessarily be said for director Dylan Kidd, who made a splash with his 2002 debut, Roger Dodger—Jesse Eisenberg’s first film, among other virtues—and followed it up with the flawed but still quite interesting P.S. (2004). Kidd wrote or co-wrote both of those films himself, but he’s an anonymous gun-for-hire on this, the only feature he’s been able to make in the dozen years since. What attracted him to Kyle Pennekamp and Scott Turpel’s screenplay, apart from desperation, isn’t clear; even in 2012, its recession-era premise must have seemed a bit moldy. Basically, all of the characters are looking for work or feeling humiliated in an entry-level position. Will Davis (Teller), who fancies himself a creative soul, has the toughest decision: whether to stick with industrial video work, under the thumb of a controlling boss (Marcia Gay Harden), or risk jumping ship to a startup offering little pay and stock options. But the movie also bounces around among Will’s girlfriend (Anna Kendrick), his roommates (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Brandon T. Jackson, Nicholas Braun), and even his dad (Bryan Cranston), who was recently laid off.
With a cast this talented—Alison Brie, Jorge Garcia, Jay Pharoah, Marc Maron, John C. McGinley, Bruce Davison, John Cho, and Greg Germann all turn up in small roles—Get A Job is never painful to endure, but neither does it ever rise above lazy mediocrity. Brie’s character, for example, who works at Will’s firm, exists solely to be gratuitously vulgar, which is mildly funny the first couple of times and increasingly tiresome thereafter. The movie’s idea of comedy regarding its one significant middle-aged character, meanwhile, is having Cranston type “lol” on Twitter in response to a death, because he thinks it stands for “lots of love.” These feeble jokes stand out all the more because the narrative is so patchy: Jackson’s Wall Street guy loses a ton of money for his company, but we hear about it only after the fact, and Will’s covert recording of a video résumé for his father never gets paid off with the obligatory scene in which Dad shows it to a prospective employer and is surprised to see his job-winning candor (captured during a moment when he thought he was off-camera). Honestly, it would probably have been better for almost everyone involved—especially Kidd—had Get A Job been left on the shelf permanently. All it can do now is embarrass some young actors who’ve already moved on to bigger and better things.