It has been said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” For the rest of us who do have to work, our job can be a means to an end, or it can be the uneven side of a work/life balance. Many people define themselves by their jobs, using their profession as an opportunity to subtly hint at their income. Even though most people need jobs, there are many reasons these people might be fired from said jobs. From incompetence to downsizing, an individual’s livelihood usually hinges on whether or not they have a job. Being fired from a job isn’t the end of the world, it’s merely a forced transition. These transitions can either be positive or negative, based mostly on how much the person liked their job. This week’s two films highlight the impacts of being fired from a job.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Length: 114 minutes / 1.90 hours
The continual improvement of technology is both a blessing and a curse. While these new technologies often make our lives easier through automation, this simplification can take away jobs from hard-working individuals. Furthermore, as the world increases its reliance on the digital realm, many tactile products must make the transition from analog to digital to remain relevant. In the age where all information is easily accessible on a computer, the need for newspapers, magazines, and hardcover books is reduced in kind. Some people will still hold on to these relics due to nostalgia or other sentimentality, but when the producers of such physical media find themselves in need of an upgrade, there are inevitably jobs that will be lost in the transition. The march of progress can certainly leave people behind in its dust.
Life magazine has recognized its need to transition into the digital world. As a result, the final printed issue needs an exceptional picture to represent the end of an era. Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) is in charge of the photographs for the magazine and has just received a roll of pictures from famed photojournalist Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn). Sean indicates that negative #25 should be used for the cover, but the image is missing from the roll. While layoffs are happening all around him, Walter travels the world to find the elusive photojournalist so the final issue can get its cover image. The transition team in charge of layoffs continues to lose its patience as Walter tries to track down the picture. Eventually, Walter is fired just after finding the photo. Along the way, he has realized his life needs to be more than just a job.
Up in the Air
Length: 109 minutes / 1.82 hours
Perhaps the most difficult part of a manager’s job is firing their employees. This can occasionally be made easier by the employee’s incompetence, but so many managers abhor conflict that employees can get away with incompetence and still keep their job (like in Office Space (1999)). However, when a company is struggling to survive, and layoffs need to happen, it is up to the manager to fire their employees. This can be much more difficult to handle for both parties, considering how many workers are still good at their jobs, despite the changes happening in the company. While some documentary films like Fired! (2007) discuss what it feels like to be fired from the employee’s side of the interaction, Up in the Air (2009) takes the opposite side of this equation and shows what it’s like to be the one facilitating the firing.
It’s never easy to fire someone, which is why many companies hire Human Resources consultants to do the dirty work for them. Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) is one of the best consultants, traveling across the country to help these companies fire their employees. His experience in the business has allowed him to recognize that people need a human element to the firing process. When a new video teleconferencing system is introduced by up-and-coming Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick), Ryan feels obligated to show how the removal of the human element makes things worse. Natalie also learns this the hard way when her boyfriend dumps her via a text message. Of course, the real irony is when Ryan realizes he has not made any deeper human connections due to his job requiring him to travel extensively. Does he leave his career to put down roots?
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 jobless gems