Jordan Williams’s review published on Letterboxd:
This was a truly nice surprise. I really didn't know much about this film before watching it besides it starred George Clooney, but everything about it exceeded my expectations. Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick are extremely charming with such depth supported by great dialogue, and Clooney essentially is a corporate version of his Danny Ocean character. I was wondering if this was Kendrick's first real film role, but I, like Anna Kendrick, completely forgot she was in Twilight.
The screenplay is incredible. Coming off of one of the biggest recessions of the country in 2008, the film dives into how much reliance we have on our careers and a paycheck. With thousands of lay-offs and financial ruin for Americans, a sense of despair in futures was an overwhelming feeling at this time. Clooney and Kendrick are employees of a company that is hired out to fire employees of other companies while offering the terminated people disappointing packages that "help them look at their futures." We see the irony in this when they fire middle-aged and older people who realize this is it- how can they go back into the job-hunt against 22-year-olds with so much more qualifications and targeted educations to the changing job-field?
The conversations they have with those they are firing opens up the ideas of how much finances control our lives, how we lose our passions, and the sincerity of our relationships and goals. It also looks at the impersonality of our relationships and connections with human beings in the age of communicating through screens. Natalie is broken up with over a text which everyone realizes is much more embarrassing than a face-to-face confrontation, while at the same time she is advocating for a less-personal form of firing that is done through video-chat.
Clooney's character has given up on having relationships and baggage, simply working toward his goal of reaching 10 million airline miles- a goal Kendrick's character astutely deduces is about his fear of mortality. One wonders why he is working so hard towards securing a remembrance of himself with a name on the side of an airplane when he spends such little of his time actually living. He actively advises people to let go of relationships, homes, jobs, etc. and to just keep moving because "we're live sharks," and if we stop moving, we'll die. We see his most genuine relationships with his sisters, Farmiga's character who is essentially a female version of himself, and eventually his apprentice, Kendrick.
Clooney and Farmiga's relationship in this film is interesting to look at in any circumstance. When we begin to live our lives that come with so much reservation in connecting with others and pickiness in choosing partners, finding someone exactly like us seems like a god-send. Feeling that we are truly understood by someone is such a euphoric feeling that we latch onto it. When we find that person, we begin to question what was making us hold back from finding these connections in the first place.
Kendrick's character offers a different perspective to the corporate world and the up-and-comers in a new suffering career and financial climate. She's a Cornell graduate who is optimistic about advancing this company with new tactics, but is quickly turned away by the despair she feels in firing these people and having to console and feel their dread. She is especially shook in an experience of firing a woman who then explains she doesn't care about her severance package because she will be committing suicide instead. Her character then comes into an existential crisis when dumped over text-message by her boyfriend. She has to attempt to navigate her future after her goals of being married with kids and "driving a Grand Cherokee" are crushed with the end of her relationship. She asks Clooney and Farmiga where they thought they would be at their current stage in life to which they reply expectations like that simply become burdens.
This film really resonated with me in our decisions of careers and how we give up our passions for a paycheck. I graduated from college in Spring 2020 with no job in sight. I spent exhausting months applying to any job within the qualifications of my major to no avail. The jobs I got closest to getting were similar to Clooney's profession- being hired out by companies to place people in jobs. COVID caused so many lay-offs and erasure of jobs akin to the 2008 recession, so people are struggling just as much now to keep a job as they are to get one. The introspection I've had watching this film makes me somewhat grateful that I never got any of those corporate jobs. It's not what I want to do and it would be what I fear- giving up happiness and a joy of what I'm doing so that I can afford an apartment in Seattle. In the meantime, I'll just be working at my local market and waiting until an opportunity that aligns with my passions finds me instead.
Anyone who has been desperately looking for job or wonders if they have compromised too much of their life for a career should absolutely watch this. I feel that it resonates just as much today as it did in 2009. It also makes me wish Sam Elliott would show up at a crucial point in my life and tell me which way to go.