Career Opportunities

(USA - 1991)

by Mike Lorefice

Cast: Frank Whaley, Jennifer Connelly, Dermot Mulroney, Kieran Mulroney, William Forsythe, Barry Corbin, John Candy
Genre: Comedy
Director: Bryan Gordon
Screenplay: John Hughes
Cinematography: Donald McAlpine
Composer: Thomas Newman
Runtime: 83 minutes

The first hour of this movie is so enjoyable. Frank Whaley, who also ruled in Swimming With Sharks, is hilarious as the loser who constantly makes up stories to try to make people believe he's important and actually has a life. What makes it work is that Whaley is sharp and a quick thinker, so he's successful to a point before it all comes crumbling down. The best example of this is the classic scene where he tries to get a high profile job at Target from the late John Candy, who collaborated with John Hughes eight times including the very good Planes, Trains, & Automobiles. It's even better than the scene in Trainspotting where the junkie shoots up before he goes for the job interview (of course, as a whole that's a much better film). When it backfires and he has to settle for the prestigious job of overnight janitor, William Forsythe has him wearing the dirty uniform of the loser who previously held that position, Darrell, promising that he'll give him a new name patch if it by some chance works out.

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In contrast to Whaley, who has been crapped on all his life, we have Jennifer Connelly as the woman who seemingly has it all. She's the most beautiful woman in this town, or any other for that matter, and she's filthy rich. What people don't know though is that High School was the highlight of her life, and now she's going through life aimlessly under the dictation of her abusive, controlling father. She occasionally has the guts to do something to get back at him. For instance, the great scene where her father tries to introduce her to his business associates. She takes her coat off in a seductive manner, goes over and kisses one on the lips, and then when the other puckers up expecting the highlight of his life, she shakes his hand instead and says "I don't want to interrupt your meeting." The film really goes out of it's way to emphasize how gorgeous she is, the white tank almost makes it too hard to focus, but she follows up her strong performance in The Hot Spot by once again proving she's a lot more than just a beautiful face and awesome body. Even when she's saying or doing the opposite she has the grace and ability to convey what she wants without appearing to try. Also, although this is more something she's honed as the years have gone on, there's always an added feel to her dialogue because of her physical acting (something that seems to only be mentioned when done by the crooked nose types) and her paused delivery. It's not a role that requires great depth or range, which is what kept her down for so long because the physical beauty was noticed but not so much the beauty of the person or potential of the performer. This performance looks weak in comparison to her work in Requiem For A Dream, but only shows how much she's grown as well as how much more she was capable of.

The bulk of the movie takes place in Target, with the stores goods being exploited for all the fun and silliness they are worth. Whaley is locked in because no first nighter gets a key, and apparently nobody checked the dressing rooms, where Connelly fell asleep debating whether she should get caught shoplifting to piss her dad off. They exchange a lot of great and extremely well delivered dialogue, with Connelly admitting how miserable her life is and backing Whaley into enough corners that he has to do the same. This part moves way too fast. Connelly went to school with Whaley her whole life, but never gave him the time of day since she was in and he wasn't. Within a few hours, knowing what any guy would most want to do with her, she still offers to grant him any wish to make up for how badly she's treated him over the years. Not only that, she's willing to use her $52,000 that she for some reason carries around in her purse so they can go away and start a new life together. Their chemistry is good and I realize everything had to happen before the store was unlocked the next morning, but the rest of the movie should have been devoted to getting to the point where them falling in love and going away together was "believable." Unfortunately, the whole mood and tone of the movie changes for the very worst when the Mulroney brothers show up to rob the store.

The Mulroneys aren't as bumbling as the crooks in Home Alone (Hughes also wrote that whole annoying series of movies), but there's nothing remotely funny about them and their presence in the movie is totally unnecessary. Whaley & Connelly try to outsmart them, but the outcome is never in doubt since the brothers are portrayed as the epitome of village idiots. Part of me loves the scene where Connelly rides the rocking horse to seduce Dermot, but this is the highlight of the whole portion and it still added nothing to the movie from a technical standpoint. This whole section dumbs the movie down with silly bumbling idiot and implied PG-13 sex gags. It not only provides far fewer laughs and removes the sweetness and cuteness of the story, but it fails to advance the plot in any way. It's such nonsense that the movie would actually be better if there were 20 minutes of commercials after the first hour and then they came back for the last few minutes.

The movie is not believable, but it doesn't try to be. Its purpose (aside from Hughes failed attempt to once again cash in from the younger audience) is to give hope to people who, whether they'll admit it or not, aren't in a good situation. It's saying that you need to grow up and have the guts to make a change that could improve your life. It succeeds in doing this, and provides a lot of laughs along the way. It's probably better upon subsequent viewings because the comedy isn't based on jokes that are only funny once and you've already been so outraged by the Mulroney section that you either fast forward, turn the channel, or hang in there just to drool over Jennifer (which, in a way unfortunately, seems to be what Hughes counted on). Add this to the list of films that should have been great, but were undermined by the nonsensical nature of part of the script.  




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