RR Films: Work

I was tempted go go with ‘Happiness’ as this week’s topic, as yesterday was the United Nations’ International Day of Happiness, but I couldn’t bring too many films to mind*. Instead, as more stories surface of restaurants not paying the minimum wage and self-employed drivers being charged for being unable to work, this week I’m looking for films set in and around the workplace.

Compliance was my first thought – and the tyranny of fast food management is still very much with us – but instead I’ll look back to happier times, when complete incompetence was no great barrier to earning a crust, and kick off with Clerks, Kevin Smith’s only good film (discuss?)……

What films about work would you recommend?

*Or, if you prefer, films about happiness.


36 thoughts on “RR Films: Work

  1. Clerks was my first thought. Then films about miners, but we kind of covered those a couple of weeks ago. Then Lucy and Ethel in the candy factory, but that’s not a film. So for a lack of something better at the moment, I’ll go for Car Wash. (For the soundtrack.)

  2. I love Clerks!

    I’ll go for The Devil Wears Prada. Everyone’s had that experience right? Bitchy and mean boss taking credit and generally making your life a misery?

    Shall I tell you the one film about work that I think is dreadful (says more about my dislike of cloying rom-com than anything else to be fair)? You Got Mail. It’s about the owner of an independent book shop being threatened by a Borders style book hypermarket/lifestyle/coffee emporium opening on her doorstep. What a load of pap that one is!! Actually, now that I’m explaining it, I realise….I quite like it. The best bit is where the Tom Hanks character explains to Meg Ryan how The Godfather is the source of all philosophy and she should “go to the mattresses”…not all that bad after all!

      • tbh, DsD, sometimes I think you’re more into shoehorning than hitting the topic on the head….

        Are these really set in a workplace?

      • The shoehorn accusation goes uncontested, but do you want films about ‘work’ or about the ‘workplace‘? When your job[s] as peripatetic as mine, there is no permanent workplace. Films about work is potentially huge: you could, for instance, argue that The Godfather trilogy is about work – the head of a business trying to keep it afloat in unfriendly waters – or, at the other end of the scale, something like Ghostbusters.
        Off the top of my head, The Sixth Sense, Mad Max, (only the first one, obv), Apollo 13; they’re all nominally about work. It’s your thread, Chris, so you’re on the door: who’s dressed well enough to be allowed in?

        And PLEASE don’t take any of this as criticism! I’m glad of the light relief from a day of tedious admin: repeat photocopying, multiple-signature, filing, training manual updating; the crap parts of my [day]job that wouldn’t make ANY sort of interesting film. Because I’d put forward this theory for discussion – it’s rarely the work part of films about work that make the film good; it’s what happens to the characters during their work that makes the film, no?

      • No worries Chris. You’ve no doubt identified my level of film appreciation by now, so it’s probably fairer you ignore me!

  3. Shall I try to shoehorn another?
    Grosse Pointe Blank – about a professional assassin trying to get out of his line of work and being hassled about joining an assassin union. All set around him attending his high school reunion. Great soundtrack. I adore John Cusack; he can do no wrong in my eyes.

  4. It’s a pretty shoehorn able topic. You could get Taxi Driver in there, as Chris mentioned drivers. Driving Miss Daisy (I never saw it.) Crime films with cops on the beat or detectives in stations. Dumbass films like 9 to 5 and Working Girl (never did see that one.) And I can think of any random number of films in houses of various ill reputes. Croupier.

  5. Several spring to mind but I will go with these 3 –

    Blue Collar – a trio of auto workers in the US (including Richard Pryor in his first film) are fed up with being mistreated by the management and their union and decide to rob the union offices. They do not find the money they are after but do find evidence that the union is involved in corrupt practices with links to organized crime. They use the information in an attempt to blackmail the union but the union does not play ball and a suspicious accident leads to the death of one of the three.

    Riff Raff – a Ken Loach film set on a building site in London with Robert Carlyle and Ricky Tomlinson, it concerns the building firm’s lack of safety concerns but also has some really funny moments in it. Things come to a head when a young worker falls from the scaffolding and is badly injured after the management have continually ignored warnings from the workers about the danger. The next night a couple of the workers set fire to the site in revenge.

    Ikiru – Takashi Shimura plays a council clerk who discovers he has terminal cancer and as a last act of goodness decides to build a playground for the local children who have nowhere to play. The bureaucracy of Japanese society is well illustrated as is the rigid attitude towards both the elderly and the sick.

  6. I think this has been suggested for a previous topic but the one that immediately springs to mind is Two Days, One Night (2014)

    Marion Cotillard plays a woman who has been off work with depression. Instead of being able to return she is told that the company is in dire financial straits and she will lose her position if she can’t convince her colleagues to give up their annual 1,000 Euro bonus. She contacts the others one by one, in the hope of convincing them to vote for her to stay. Of course, many of them are counting on the extra money. Some are sympathetic, some hostile, some a mixture of both. Heartbreaking.

    • Love Nine to Five – funny, clever and should have a much better reputation than it does. Although the three women are the focus of the movie, it’s Dabney Coleman’s total shit of a boss who steals it … you want him to get everything that’s coming to him.

  7. Films involving various kinds of work, with varying degrees of work-place setting:

    The Consequences Of Love (protagonist a cog in Mafia money laundering);

    Of Gods And Men (A Trappist monastery, home and work-place of nine monks in strife riven Algeria);

    The Secret In Their Eyes (public servants in the Argentinian Ministry Of Justice, with plenty of office humour, intrigues and politics).

    The Great Beauty (Journalist – writes about his cultural milieu – where, it has to be said, I could make myself at home);

    The Lives Of Others (Stasi operative with scenes inside some kind of Stasi Hq);

    The Secretary (bits of office life and secretarial duties in this mix).

    More or less in order of a preference that runs from admired a lot to bored me rigid.

  8. OK, here’s one to ponder: Dredd. Not the Stallone abomination, but the 2012 version with Karl Urban[‘s chin] as the Judge. Because it sticks much closer to the character as originally, er, drawn, and because the film is all one day’s shift, it really is nothing more than a workday in the life of …
    What do we learn about Dredd during the film? Nothing. What changes in his outlook as a result of the workday’s events? Nothing. What does he do apart from go about his job? Nothing.

    I’m not claiming any cultural high ground here, obviously, but when it turns up on a Freeview channel late at night, am I tempted to watch it again? Yeah, every time. (This may be because I have a man-crush on Urban – RED is one of my favourite films of the last decade; I think he’s an inspired piece of casting as McCoy in the Star Trek series; and I think if he could master a convincing accent, he’d be an excellent choice to take over from DC as Bond.)

  9. back in the early days of PC computing, it was like the wild west – they should have made a fillum about it – i had to hack into the Commodore operating system to fix the random number generator for a pools prediction program and met two top accountants using a spreadsheet for the first time – visicalc – and it said the company was bust – hours before a board meeting .. i fixed it in no time once i noticed it was several pages sellotaped together with no carry forward
    But in films .. James Bond still has the same screens and tapes turning, and everyone hacks a password to the Pentagon with a wild guess
    Jumping Jack flash with Whoopi Goldberg is perhaps the daftest use of a computer ever

  10. Dziga Vertov’s The man with the movie camera- an avant-garde, 1929 documentary film focused on Moscow, Odessa and Kiev, which forged new connections between cinema and steel-driven, modern industrial working life in the Soviet Union.

  11. Film: Office Space or The Hudsucker Proxy or Up in the Air. And another shout for Matewan for some physical labour.
    TV: The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin and Boys from the Blackstuff. (Thanks for the reminder, Shoey,)

  12. I got this A listed in RR Manual Labour – so I should add it here:
    ‘Cvalda’ from the musical film – “Dancer in the Dark”

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