The two leads are fine, but they don’t serve your fries well-done.
“The Last Shift” features a movie chemistry between an old man and a young man-one of which is retiring, and the other is an ex-convict. Richard Jenkins plays the old man and Shane Paul McGhie (“What Men Want” and “Greenleaf”) plays the young man; and while their acting is fine, the movie never really leads them in the right direction.
I was expecting this film to be somewhat “Clerks” type movie, especially since it takes place in a small time joint, and there are moments that relate to the real world. But this set-up and these characters are only limited to the cliches and underwritten narrative. It starts off interesting, but then it takes a wrong direction, and it’s not all that compelling.
The old man is Stanley (Jenkins), an elderly night manager at suburban Chicago fast food joint called “Oscar’s Chicken & Fish,” who is set to retire in a few days. He has a mom in a crappy retirement home, and he has found an apartment for them down in Sarasota, Florida. He’s worked there for 38 years, and yet, he doesn’t earn as much as he should ($13.70 an hour), which is one of the reasons why he has trouble planning on making the drive. That and he buys a fading car, in which he has his door ripped off by a moving truck.
His graveyard shift replacement is Jevon (McGhie), a young man on parole with a little boy, whom his ex-girlfriend is planning to take full custody of. As a skilled journalist, he writes blogs, and political articles, and as an activist, he blames society for the ongoing racisms. The two begin to bond on their shift, but not as much as they should have.
The cast also features Allison Tolman as Jevon’s nice parole officer, Ed O’Neil as Stanley’s wise-cracking friend, and Da’Vine Joy Randolph as their stressed-out, but well-meaning boss.
“The Last Shift” is the narrative directorial debut of Andrew Cohn, who is best known for missing documentary features, and it was also produced by Alexander Payne, Albert Berger, and Ron Yerxa. They have two characters you care about, and Jenkins and McGhie are both very good in their roles in the ways they ease into the characters. But the movie never really worked for me, because of how weak is narrative is, and how it doesn’t seem to know what it wants to accomplish.
The fast food joint I want to return to would be In & Out Burger, which I went to in San Francisco. And seeing this film take place in a small joint, instead of generic brands like McDonald’s or Arby’s makes me feel good inside. I could care less about the big names’ commercialism or their factory based products, and I’m fascinated in how these small businesses can introduce us to such fascinating or interesting characters.
But I wanted more out of the characters. I wanted to know more about their lives, instead of them just trading one-liners, and having to rely on their routine drama and realities. The old man has budget issues, while the kid delves on racism in society, but they’re being held back from their full potential.
I’ll just take my meal to go, please.