Ok, I admit it. I like movies about careers and I like indie films. My all-time favorite career movie is Clockwatchers featuring Parker Posey and Toni Collette.
So when our local alternate indie festival — STIFF – announced screening of a new movie, Entry Level, I had to go.
Entry Level is the first feature film for Douglas Horn, made for $100K, a budget that’s low even for indies.
The premise of the film: Restaurant owner and master chef Clay McGuire (played by leprechaun look-alike D.B. Sweeney) loses his restaurant when a construction crew sets up bulldozers just outside his front door.
Clay hangs out in his house, mourning his loss, till his girl friend says, “It’s time to get a job.” She says it on her way out the door, suitcase in hand. Clay’s only friend is the homeless man who lives on a park bench and has a suspiciously strong appreciation for Clay’s recipes.
Clay’s not ready to return to the restaurant business. He figures he’ll get a nice job in corporate America…something not too stressful with benefits. It’s a common myth: a lower-level job comes with less stress.
The film works if you are willing to overlook a few improbabilities.
Clay’s first step is the state unemployment office. Most people aren’t eligible for unemployment if they’ve owned their own businesses. Filmmaker Horn, who attended the screening, said, “They do in his state.”
Okay…I’ll forgive this premise because actor Cedric Yarborough perfectly captures the bureaucratic tough love of an unemployment “counselor.”
Clay’s not ready for the job market. He gets a lot of attention for his typed resume (“Was this actually typed on a typewriter?”) and his decision to carry a canvas bag in lieu of a briefcase. And he makes friends by bringing goodies to everyone.
Yes, I know: It’s hard to imagine anyone of Clay’s age who does not have a computer and an email account, so the typewriter bit seems a little odd. Where did he find time and money to keep making those goodies?
But here’s what’s genuine. Clay still has the heart and soul of a chef. Even new acquaintances say, “You don’t talk like an ex-chef. You talk like a chef.” No matter how hard he tries, Clay can’t avoid using his culinary skills.
The ending actually has a surprising but satisfying twist. It’s the kind of career change the self-help books promise — a combination of passion and practicality.
Entry Level doesn’t have that hard edge of reality that I found in Clockwatchers but it’s got some good satiric moments. Most of us will recognize our worst nightmare interviewer as Clay tries to navigate Cubicle America. And many will groan over the all too familiar questions and chuckle at Clay’s responses to them.
We need more movies about careers, preferably indie style. Hopefully this one will go into DVD production in future. If it does, I’ll have to revise my 21-Day Extreme Career Makeover Guide: currently I include video exercises, based on videos commonly available in your neighborhood store and definitely on Netflix.