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The Last Shift – Movie Review

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The Last Shift – Movie Review

Rating: B (Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Sony Pictures

There are plenty of movies that tackle the generational gap and show a mentor-mentee relationship between an elder and the younger person they meet. The Last Shift is that sort of movie in many ways, but it also goes in another direction when depicting how the leads interact. The film mostly belongs to Richard Jenkins’s Stanley and how he copes with working at the same fast food restaurant for 38 years. This is a simple movie in its execution as most of it is set behind the counters and follows the conversations between Stanley and Jevon. One is grateful for his decades working at the job, while the other just sees it as a way to tide himself over.

Director/writer Andrew Cohn, coming from a background in documentary filmmaking, properly establishes the Michigan setting and his interest in showing the less glamorous parts of the state. It does feel like we’re watching real people and Cohn shows respect for those who work in server jobs. Both leads are certainly flawed characters, but there is nonetheless an element of sympathy as they cope with their situation in life. Jenkins portrays Stanley as someone with a devotion to his workplace, but one can sense him tiring of doing the same activities every day with little added incentive. Shane Paul McGhie, meanwhile, shows Jevon’s disinterest, but he still attempts to prove himself a good employee who is willing to do the best job possible.

Cohn throws some interesting conflicts into the story, some for dramatic effect and others played for laughs. There’s a humourous sequence where Stanley gives a used car a test drive and we see the problems that ensue. There are also times when we grow concerned for his life and well-being and then there are points where he takes the wrong course of action. Then we have the scenes that depict Stanley and Jevon discussing each other’s problems during the restaurant’s slow periods. Both actors show a good grasp of their dialogue and help make their conversations engaging. How they deal with the boredom of the late night shift also results in a few chuckles.

The Last Shift does attempt to address racial issues, albeit briefly. When the film touches on brutality against black people, it only barely scratches the surface. It mostly uses this to highlight the disadvantage Jevon might have in his life and the ways in which Stanley dismisses this. Those looking for a deep exploration on “white privilege” won’t find that here. However, the film does avoid many of the expected storytelling conventions. The story doesn’t go down the paths usually seen in these kinds of movies and that makes the main relationship between the two leads feel different and a bit more realistic.

Andrew Cohn seems intent on wanting to understand two characters in different periods of their life who somehow end up in the same place. Here we have someone who doesn’t want to waste his life, who is hanging out with someone he thinks has. Richard Jenkins and Shane Paul McGhie work off each other very well and Cohn gives them the freedom to make the writing even funnier or sadder, depending on the scene. He also makes great use of the location of this fast food place and the Michigan town where the movie is set. The Last Shift doesn’t break new ground in its genre, but it’s a solidly entertaining film, nonetheless.

Stefan Ellison
THE SCENE

Stefan Ellison