Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Mass unemployment, corporate malfeasance, and something extra join forces in Robert Jury's debut film, WORKING MAN

You could hardly ask for a more timely movie -- unless it covered the current Corona crap-fest -- than WORKING MAN, the first feature film from writer/director Robert Jury. It deals with a rust belt community in which one after another major business has shut down, leaving more and more citizens unemployed. When one of these, a past-retirement-age fellow named Allery, feels so lost without his job that he literally but secretly goes back to work in the plant which has already shuttered, he starts a chain of events that soon spirals well beyond his personal control.

Mr. Jury, pictured at left, has certainly cast his movie well. The role of Allery is taken by that fine actor, Peter Gerety, (shown below and recently seen on Netflix in the lovely movie, Change in the Air). If you're imagining that Jury's film deals with corporate mistreatment of workers, you'd be on target. But this fledgling work has a lot more on its mind -- coping with family tragedy, the distancing of husband and wife, why and on whom we place our trust -- and this proves both a strength and something of a major problem. The filmmaker bites off more than he can properly chew, and then relies too much on coincidental storytelling to bring his themes to fruition.

Recognizing medicine in a neighbor's cupboard and having it be the same as what one's troubled offspring used to take proves a little too convenient, plotwise, and even character-wise, as a reason for the too easy and complete change-of-heart on the part of Allery's wife, played well, despite less resources given her, by Talia Shire, below.

The film's most interesting character, however, is that of another laid-off worker and neighbor of Allery, Walter, played by a very impressive actor new to me who's worked mostly on TV and cable, Billy Brown. Though Walter's character is in some ways the most problematic link in Working Man, so interesting, impressive and powerful is Mr. Brown's performance that this actor pretty much carries the film.

Working Man is good enough to make you wish it were better. By its conclusion, you can be forgiven for imagining that the take-away here might be "You can't fight City Hall" (even if, these days, you might not know who the hell the City Hall you are fighting actually is), employment is not as important as healing a failing marriage, and a good peach pie can help a bad bi-polar/borderline personality disorder.

Mr. Jury's direction is just serviceable, but his dialog is generally good. Supporting performances are all excellent, too -- the various worker are both drawn and performed well -- with the standout coming from Patrese McClain as a woman with a connection to Walter.

From Brainstorm Media and running 109 minutes,  the film, which hit VOD yesterday, May 5, is one that, for all its problems, I am still pleased to have viewed. 

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