Yesterday I counted down the first five of 10 movies I think best exemplify the life (for better or worse) of the unemployed. Some of them are inspirational; some are cautionary tales of the highest degree. Here we go with 6-10:
6. American Beauty– Oh, Kevin Spacey and his bitter, sardonic pervy Lester Burnham! As a depressed father living in “perfect” suburbia, Lester is going through a serious mid-life crisis. He is spectacularly fired, then decides to remake his life when he becomes obsessed with his daughter’s nymphet friend played by Mena Suvari. Chaos ensues. For the unemployed, though, all that matters are Lester’s classic responses to his state of loserness: the firing, the drive-thru window debacle (“you are soooo busted”), the confrontation of his wife sleeping with the Real Estate King. But perhaps the best thing for us to recall and repeat to ourselves is what Lester tells tight-ass Carolyn as she’s bitching him out for the 100th time: “I rule!” Yes, Lester, you do rule.
Moral of the story: Well, there shouldn’t really be a moral for this one, but what the hell. Don’t let the “man” push you around!
7. Pretty in Pink – Okay. You’re probably wondering how this made the list. Well, Harry Dean Stanton’s portrayal of Jack Walsh (father of Andie) exemplifies the perpetually out-of-work. There’s really no lesson to be learned here. I just wanted to honor the fact that while the guy couldn’t keep a job to save his soul, he really could pick out a good pink prom dress (which his daughter goes on to make into the most butt-ugly prom dress of all time). I guess everyone’s got talent. No chaos here, unless you count Blane dissing Andie for the prom.
Moral of the story: Be good at something.
8. Fun with Dick and Jane – I have to admit that I’ve never seen this movie, but I know it absolutely represents our current environment. I also know chaos ensues, but I’ll quote from IMDB for a recap: “The day before Globodyne’s stock tanks, a la Enron, and its pension fund evaporates, the corporation’s CEO and CFO set up middle manager Dick Harper to be the public face of the disaster. Jobless, and with no savings, pension, or home equity, Dick and his wife Jane sink slowly into poverty. He looks for work (as do all former Globodyne executives); he even tries day labor with the relatives of their Mexican nanny. A foreclosure notice sends Dick and Jane over the edge into a life of blue-collar crime. Then, as things finally look up, the report of a looming indictment pushes Dick and Jane toward a denouement with the real criminals, the white-collar guys.” (Thanks, J. Hailey via IMDB!)
Moral of the story: No matter what, criminal activity is not the answer.
9. Kramer vs. Kramer – Dustin Hoffman makes the list twice with this tear-jerker about a workaholic ad man who gets laid-off, then goes home to find out his wife’s leaving him…and their young son, Billy. Chaos ensues (including a great scene with French toast), leaving Ted Kramer to embrace his role as a single father and ultimately realize that family is first in his life. He also has a nasty court battle with wife Joanna (Meryl Streep) that will exhaust you.
Moral of the story: Bad events can often make you realize what’s most important in life.
10. Office Space – This is definitely a case of saving the best for last. “Office Space” is one of my favorite movies of all time, and it fully cemented Ron Livingston’s position in my top five guy list. Plus, I believe it’s one of the only great movies Jennifer Aniston has done. Peter Gibbons is the hero of everyone stuck in a shit job. Unlike most of us, he’s desperately trying to get fired and does everything in his power to do so. What happens? He gets promoted! Genius! Chaos ensues and Peter and his friends move on to a life of white-collar crime. I could go on and on and on, but why? We all know the movie by heart anyway.
Moral of the story: Never steal someone’s red Swingline stapler.
One more moral: If you get laid-off, beating the hell out of a fax machine to the tune of “Still” by Geto Boyz will make you feel like a million bucks.
Did I forget any? I’m sure I have. Let me know your favorites!