Actress Annabelle Gurwitch (TBS’ Dinner And A Movie, NPR’s Day To Day) was canned by a cultural icon when she was fired from a play by Woody Allen. Turning to her friends in show business, she learned she was not alone – everyone she knew, from her rabbi to her gynecologist, had their own account of getting the boot. Featuring interviews with comedians, economists and regular joes, Fired! is a humorous look at downsizing in America.
Gurwitch traveled the country, interviewing people as diverse as Tim Allen, Sarah Silverman, Jeff Garlin, Anne Meara, David Cross, and auto workers in Lansing, Michigan, whose perspectives ranged from the tragically comedic to the just plain tragic. Her journey also led her to the office of Robert Reich, former Labor Secretary under President Clinton, and to economist Ben Stein, who spoke of the growing insecurity the American worker faces today.
Drawing on her hugely popular book, Fired! reminds us that all great success is born of failure, that humor helps, and that if you’re employed in America today, getting fired could be the best and worst thing to happen in your working life.
eyelights: the concept.
eyesores: the execution.
“Fired by a cultural icon”
‘Fired!’ is a documentary by Annabelle Gurwitch, based on her book, ‘Fired!: Tales of the Canned, Canceled, Downsized, and Dismissed’. It was inspired by her soul-wrenching experience of being fired by none other than Woody Allen himself.
Devastated, she found comfort in knowing that she wasn’t alone in having had such experiences. She decided to research the subject and compile people’s stories. She even went so far as to produce a series of spoken word productions, ‘Fired! Tales of jobs gone wrong’.
I was drawn to the title and its concept when I saw it in my local second-hand shop; I liked the idea of approaching this with humour. There was also the Woody Allen connection, of course. But I hesitated because I knew nothing about it. I decided to read up on it before plunging ahead with the purchase.
What I’d read was mixed but it served to intrigue me further. When I discovered that it was spawned by a book and that she had co-written ‘You Say Tomato, I Say Shut Up‘ with her spouse, I was even more curious and decided that it was one of those gambles that I just had to take.
‘Fired!’ is a film that consists of Gurwitch speaking with all sorts of people (comedians, actors, regular folks, political lawyer, economists, …etc.), sometimes in casual one-on-one dialogues, sometimes in more formal interviews., about their experiences with getting fired.
Hence the title.
She also seeks advice from professionals including a Rabbi and a psychologist about how to cope with the trauma of being rejected by one’s employer(s). She even speaks with economists about the state of labour in this day and age, which can be enlightening and enraging at once.
Even though this may seem like a very sober subject matter, Gurwitch manages to inject lighter moments in the proceedings, cracking wise and highlighting the irony in some cases. While her sense of humour isn’t entirely side-splitting, it’s enough to cast the shadows mildly.
She also includes a few stand-up/spoken word routines from various people at her shows, many of which are rather entertaining, sometimes uproarious, and also coaxes Andy Dick to try his luck at a day job in a French fry truck – a recipe for (mild) disaster, obviously.
It’s not a scientific report, though, so anyone expecting significant insight should look elsewhere: this is meant to be entertaining and cathartic, not serious research. Case-in-point, Gurwitch claims that the gene for depression has been called the “Woody Allen gene” by scientists. The facts: it’s the gene for anxiety, and it’s the media that branded it so.
But the film is filled with celebrities and familiar names, so it’s loads of fun to watch. Ileana Douglas, who seems to be friends with Gurwitch, is always awesome. There was a brilliant bit with the White House’s former Chef, and some surprising comments from the otherwise extreme Ben Stein.
My only real gripe about the picture is that it features a poorly-conceived intro, meant to provide backstory on Gurwitch’s experience. Sadly, it looked amateurish and her “acting” was pretty awful – especially when one considers that she’s recreating her own experiences.
The one positive part of that intro: The music and credits were veritably inspired by Woody Allen’s own films, and the re-enactment of her firing featured a Woody Allen impersonator that sounded very much like the real thing (he was shot in such a way that he looked a bit like him too.
So it wasn’t all bad.
In the end, it made for a pretty decent picture, if a bit uneven and (at 71 minutes) relatively short. ‘Fired!’ is no masterpiece but, for celebrity watchers, this is a real blast – Gurwitch was able to enlist all sorts of people whom you’ll be surprised to hear have had their own job worries.
And they’ve survived. Heck, some of them have even made it big since. So, maybe getting fired isn’t the end of the world, after all. Good to know.
Post scriptum: the DVD’s special features includes almost two hours of extra interviews and outtakes, some of which were absolutely terrific. I loved the guy who applied to be Ronald McDonald – the other speakers behind him lost it many times over. It was well worth watching.
Date of viewing: December 29, 2013