The Last Shift (2020) Jan 5, 2021 12:41:07 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Jan 5, 2021 12:41:07 GMT -5
The Last Shift (2020)
Directed by: Andrew Cohn
Directed by: Andrew Cohn
Shane Paul McGhie and Richard Jenkins in The Last Shift.
Stanley (Richard Jenkins) has given 38 years of his life to Oscar's Chicken & Fish, a regional fast-food joint in Michigan, predominately as the night manager. In his older age, he moves slower, almost as if he's creaking as he walks with a bow-legged hunch, but he's remained steadfast in his commitment to quality service. But after nearly four decades under the same roof, he's planning his out. He's lined his sock-drawer with money and is set to dart down to Florida, where he can care for his ailing mother.
Stanley owes Oscar's one last favor, however, and that is training his replacement. Enter Jevon (Shane Paul McGhie), a young father just released from jail. Jevon is required to work or attend school for the duration of his probation, so he puts on an apron and learns the ropes from Stanley. The two share numerous spirited exchanges over the course of the wee hours of the morning. Stanley says over the years, he's learned that the first half of the night shift involves fighting off drunks; the second half involves fighting off boredom.
While Stanley would rather not pay any mind to the fact that making $13.50/hour after 38 years of labor for a big corporation is exploitation in its crudest form, Jevon has no qualms about bringing that fact to light. Jevon used to write a political column for his school newspaper, and finds himself inciting conversations with his superior about race and capitalism. Stanley is abrasive to these discussions. Like most, he'd rather not ponder how unseen forces affect him or the lives of others. But employees can only slide frozen meat patties across the floor with brooms for so long before the real discussions take place.
Andrew Cohn's The Last Shift is anchored by amiable performances from Jenkins — a treasure of many American dramas over the last several decades — and McGhie, who both make conversational music when they're left to their wits in a lonely kitchen. Through all his flaws, Stanley isn't a difficult character with whom to sympathize. He's like many older Americans, who've worked hard their entire life for what little they have, can't catch a break, and in some sense, are just smart enough to do the job at hand but too naïve to reckon with the ways they've been taken advantage throughout their lives. Jevon, on the other hand, is simply trying to get on the straight-and-narrow, and if you're young and harbor any kind of ambition as a creative mind, you know that being asked to mop up the dining room or fry patties can feel like the ultimate insult.
There's a little bit of Tracy Letts' Superior Donuts in The Last Shift, if only in the regard it tangentially involves a codger coming to the realization that minorities are actually capable of being decent human beings. Where Cohn's feature gets murky is in what exactly it's trying to say with the most incendiary conversations between Stanley and Jevon regarding race and privilege. The film appears to cast a more sympathetic light on Stanley at times than what's warranted. It's not that he predictably scoffs at the idea of white privilege that's the problem, it's the empathy loaned to him during what is a pretty contemptible climax set into motion by his actions. Jevon is far from perfect too, but the Grand Canyon difference in their positions is Jevon knows what he doesn't want to become. By the time Jevon makes Stanley realize what's come of his life, it's too late for a drastic pendulum shift.
Also fun to see is Ed O'Neill giving his umpteenth variation on his Al Bundy character in Don, one of Stanley's few friends. At times, Don serves as something of a life-coach, picking up his friend when he's been kicked to the curb. At other times, he's good for a quip and a slap on the back. Ultimately, The Last Shift gets character details and conversations right, making for a delightful slice-of-life in 86 minutes that flies by. It just doesn't nail a direction to take when the hard discussions are raised by its perceptive characters.
Starring: Richard Jenkins, Shane Paul McGhie, Ed O'Neill, and Da'Vine Joy Randolph. Directed by: Andrew Cohn.