Once upon a time, in a land far far away, let’s call it England, there was a film director with a very promising career. He opened well with a fabulously sexy take on Shakespeare’s Othello, before flourishing in a series of uptight drawing-room comedies, but despite his fine way with British humour, this chap – let’s call him Oliver Parker – lost his way. At first glance, there appears much to recommend about his latest work, I really hate my job, though appearances can be deceptive, despite a fine cast, including Brit character actor Shirley Henderson and the long-lost Neve Campbell as two of a team of women trying to keep an upmarket London restaurant afloat after the head chef throws in the towel.
Campbell is Abbie, an American actress forced to begrudgingly earn her keep waitressing. Her colleague Alice (Henderson) steps up to the hotplate when the chef walks, but she is really a struggling writer, and her characters circle her head while she tries not to burn the food. Across a single work shift, we witness a series of events conspiring against the girls, including a wayward mouse and an American film star. The screenplay is by first-timer Jennifer Higgie, who doubtless served a tour of duty or two in hospitality, and while those of us who serve and cook might find much laughter of familiarity, I doubt few else will.
“I like well-crafted, morally complex movies with strong narratives and strong acting,” says one of the characters, and I can tell you, this isn’t one of the films she is talking about. I really hate my job has been kicking around since 2007 waiting for a release, which doesn’t usually bode well, and in this case the boding is pretty spot-on. The film isn’t terrible, and if it were produced by a kid fresh out of high school with their mates working crew, then it might seem rather accomplished, but with the level of talent at work behind and up on the screen, it’s frankly not good enough.
I found myself straining at times to hear some of the dialogue, and a little embarrassed by the film’s stageyness – a word I just invented to mean something that feels as though it is being played to the cheap seats in the back. The one shining light is Romanian actress Oana Pellea, who gets the few genuine laughs.