Stanley (Richard Jenkins) has worked at Oscars Chicken ‘N Fish in Albion, Michigan for the past 38 years, but he’s finally decided to retire. His mother lives in a poorly-run nursing home in Florida, and he has decided to drive down to Sarasota to take care of her. His lifelong best friend Dale (Ed O’Neill) tries to convince Stanley to stay, asking him why he’s traveling all the way to Florida to take care of a mother who hardly even cared for him. But if there’s one thing about Stanley, it’s that he’s loyal to fault. Stanley currently works the graveyard shift at the fast food restaurant, where he spends most of his time alone. Stanley’s boss, Shazz (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), has tasked him with training his replacement for the next couple of weeks, before his last shift.
Jevon (Shane Paul McGhie) is a teenager, just out on parole for good behavior. He doesn’t really have a good track record when it comes to holding down a job, but his parole officer Evelyn (Allison Tolman) warns him that he could be sent back to serve the rest of his sentence if he doesn’t keep this one. In high school, Jevon was a talented and promising writer, writing political commentary for the school paper, but then his life took a turn in the wrong direction after he got into some trouble with the law. Now he’s just struggling to make ends meet. He has a newborn child with his girlfriend, and they are currently living in his parents’ house—a living situation that is quickly causing a divide in his relationship.
Stanley and Jevon couldn’t be more different. Stanley is this older man who comes from a different era—he is stuck in his ways and mindset. He is a stickler for the rules, and always puts in 110%—he builds a chicken sandwich with the seriousness and attention to detail of a surgeon performing a life-saving operation. At the same time, Stanley’s a bit of a pushover. He looks at his devotion and loyalty to his job proudly as a badge of honor, and always remains upbeat and positive about his work, despite the fact that after nearly 40 years he doesn’t really have anything to show for it. Stanley is still making less than $14/hour, lives in a small, rundown apartment, and can’t even afford the car he needs to drive to Florida. Meanwhile, Jevon is a lot younger, about the same age as Stanley was when he started at the restaurant. He sees this job for what it is, just a paycheck, and is more than happy to just do the bare minimum. He doesn’t understand Stanley’s blind devotion to a company that has shown him little appreciation for his many years of service.
The Last Shift is an interesting, and sometimes eye-opening, slice of life dramedy following the ups and downs of the lives of these two men, one at the end of his career, and the other just starting out. While the film has a lot of humor, the story also takes some darker turns. These guys come from completely different generations and backgrounds—one is an older white guy and the other a young African-American teenager—but find themselves in a similar situation. They are both high school dropouts in the same dead-end, under-appreciated job. They have very different work ethics and perspectives on life, and as Stanley and Jevon work together, they start to bond and open up each other’s eyes to the harshness and realities of the world. Their discussions run the gamut from work, to politics, to systemic racism and more. It quickly becomes clear that Jevon is well-read, so how did he get into this current situation?! Stanley shares a story with Jevon about an incident when he was in high school—some of his white classmates beat and killed a black student. However, as Stanley describes what was wrong with that situation, Jevon quickly realizes just how different their viewpoints, ideals and life experiences really are. At the same time, Jevon opens up Stanley’s eyes to see just how much he has been being used and taken advantage of over the past 40 years, all the while feeling a sense of pride and nobility in his work. Stanley starts to realize just how much of a waste this his life has been, and decides to do something about it—though in a very misguided way that will also affect Jevon.
The performances are quite good, especially that of Richard Jenkins. Stanley has this slow, methodical way of moving, and is constantly breathing heavy. Jenkins really makes the audience feel the pain, exhaustion and toll 38 years on the job has had on Stanley. It’s kind of depressing to see this shell of a man come to realize that what he was proud of is all a lie, and that his whole life has been a waste. No matter what he tries, luck never seems to be on Stanley’s side—he can’t seem to catch a break, and his problems just keep compounding. Shane Paul McGhie has great chemistry with Jenkins, and the friendship and bond that forms between Jevon and Stanley feels quite natural and real, despite the initial reservations and differences between the two men. As the guys pass the time on their late shift they have some deep conversations and some fun moments, such as the guys playing frozen hamburger patty hockey in the kitchen. A lot of the film’s humor also comes from the supporting actors, like Ed O’Neill as Stanley’s best friend who is constantly trying to convince him to stay, Allison Tolman as the seemingly-kind but tough parole officer looking out for Jevon, and Da’Vine Joy Randolph as Stanley’s long time but younger boss.
While I really enjoyed the film overall, especially the interactions and discussions between Stanley and Jevon, the final act felt oddly-paced and a bit rushed in comparison to the rest of the movie. The crux of the film follows the lives of these guys and the bond that slowly forms as Stanley trains Jevon. However, once this training is over, the pacing becomes a bit odd, jumping in time, but not giving the viewer enough information as to how much time as passed or what exactly has transpired in order for the characters to end up in their current situations. However, the overall film is an interesting and entertaining story that is part tragic/part uplifting.
I was sent the DVD for review, and while Sony has also released the film in HD on Blu-ray and Digital, the DVD presentation is still satisfying. The picture looks quite clean, with a nice level of detail and a more muted color palette (the film primarily takes place in the kitchen of the fast food restaurant during the late night shift). The audio track provides clear dialogue, and occaisionally makes use of the surround channel to add some ambiance and give some more immersive moments. Unfortunately, there is no bonus material included on this release. The DVD disc comes packed in a standard DVD keepcase without a slipcover, and with no digital.
- 480i / Anamorphic Widescreen 2.00:1
- Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1
- Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish
The Last Shift is an interesting slice-of-life story that explores the daily struggles of two very different men, mixing a bit of mismatched buddy comedy with tragic drama. The lead performances are quite strong, and are joined by several more-humorous supporting roles. Sony’s DVD release features strong picture and sound, but contains no bonus material. The release is also available in HD on Blu-ray and digital. Worth checking out.