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Image Entertainment presents

A Real Job (2001)

John: Oh my God. She's got Jerry Lewis on her answering machine.
Vinnie: Tough break, dude. I had a feeling there was something wrong with that chick.
John: You don't understand. Jerry Lewis is my hero.- Paul Kolsby, Alan Natale

Stars: Paul Kolsby, Sharon Repass
Other Stars: Alan Natale, Pramod Mishrekar, Henry-Alex Goelet, Mark Irvingsen, Heather Hiltermann
Director: Ana Barredo

Manufacturer: Ritek
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for brief mild language
Run Time: 01h:33m:52s
Release Date: 2002-06-04
Genre: romantic comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ A-C+B- A-


DVD Review

Hollywood tries desperately to make people believe that it can still pump out warm, funny romantic comedies. The problem is that most of these projects become shrewdly marketed vanity affairs designed around the far too recognizable marquee star, whether it be Meg Ryan, Julia Roberts, or Hugh Grant. The final product is usually overly shrill or mind-numbingly sappy, and it's enough to make a moviegoer, or DVD renter, head for the hills rather than sit through the latest half-hearted Hollywood attempt.

Thankfully, independent filmmakers still strive to rise out of the celluloid tar pits, and Ana Barredo's directorial debut, A Real Job, is one of those incredibly small films (made for well under $10,000) that begs notice. After penning the screenplay, using her video store experience as the basis for the script, Barredo took a quick four-week film class at the American Film Institute, bought a Canon XL-1 digital video camera on eBay, maxed out her credit cards, and recruited a group of her friends to help her out. This is low-budget, almost guerilla filmmaking, shot primarily on weekends. Barredo has really succeeded here, proving once again that a film's entertainment value is no way tied to its budget.

John St. Clair (Paul Kolsby) is 38-year-old video store clerk, has been for twenty years, and he is perfectly content. He's not a slacker, a stoner or a lazy Gen-Xer (whatever that is), he's just a guy who loves his job. He shares the counter with fast-talking Vinnie (Alan Natale), and the two spend a lot of time pontificating on life while they take care of DVD and video renters. John is hopelessly smitten with Denise (Sharon Repass), a regular customer, and he eventually works up the nerve to ask her out. Their relationship develops slowly, and things move along nicely, but hits a dramatic bump when John's old high school pal, now a successful sales rep, returns to town. John suddenly feels the need to get a "real job" in order to impress Denise, and when he lands a high-pressure corporate gig, their relationship begins to feel the pressure, as well.

Barredo's cast is full of unknowns, and that adds a lot to the overall enjoyment of a small film like A Real Job; the whole thing just seems very real. Sure, some of the extras are laughably stiff, but this stems more from Barredo using members of the production crew to fill out the film, while keeping the budget under control. In the leads, Kolsby and Repass are charming together, in an awkward blossoming romance kind of way; I enjoyed the way they played their scenes together. Natale, looking like a rejected Backstreet Boy, supplies the comic relief well. Pramod Mishrekar plays the stern Calcutta-born owner of the video store where John and Vinnie work, and his slightly mangled English turns simple dialogue into some minor comic gems. Henry-Alex Goelet, as a corporate rich kid, is one of those creepy characterizations that is like an endless number of people I've worked with in "real" life, and maybe it's just me, but in terms of acting, his performance really hit home.

Barredo has a genuine flair for dialogue, and all of her characters speak what sounds like natural, heartfelt words. There is no over-the-top slapstick here, nor are there any lengthy and dramatic soliloquies. This isn't a re-hash of Clerks, either; she wisely sidesteps mimicking the more sharp and caustic screenwriting of Kevin Smith, for example, and she avoids incorporating any nudity or sexuality, as well. This is a much needed shot-in-the-arm to the romantic comedy genre, but unfortunately I'm sure very few people will see this film.

If you are used to slick Hollywood productions, A Real Job will be startlingly rugged in comparison. Obviously there are no grandiose special effects here, because after all this is a romantic comedy. Production values are minimal, to say the least, with Barredo at one point actually using an enlarged photograph (not bluescreen, mind you) of a real video store interior as a backdrop. Gaffes and goofs are evident to the eagle-eyed viewer, but to draw attention to those only detracts from the parts that work so well in Barredo's film. The good news is the actors get to speak Barredo's clever dialogue, and the material works exceptionally well. This is truly independent filmmaking, but more importantly, it is a wonderfully told story.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Shot on digital video, without the benefit of big-budget lighting, the nonanamorphic 1.66:1 widescreen transfer varies from OK to bad. Grain is heavy throughout, and I don't think there were two consecutive scenes where fleshtones looked similar at all, let alone natural. Bear in mind that A Real Job had a budget of less than $10,000, and I guess the flaws come as part of that territory.

Image Transfer Grade: C+

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: Like the no-frills video transfer, the 2.0 surround track is remarkably spartan. It is, however, mixed well, and the dialogue is always captured cleanly. Don't expect much in the way of rear channel action here, and you won't be disappointed. Barredo used a lot of musician friends to supply appropriate pop songs to match the onscreen action, and those tracks sound far more robust than most of the dialogue passages do.

Audio Transfer Grade: B- 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 29 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Ana Barredo, Henry Rivas, Alan Natale, Vini Cirilli
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: A full-length, scene-specific commentary from director Ana Barredo, actor Alan Natale, producer Henry Rivas and "sound guru" Vini Cirilli is an unexpected plus on this disc. An extremely casual (re: alcohol-fueled) gabfest, Barredo and crew don't waste time telling us what we're seeing on the screen, but rather offer what I consider to be a wealth of insight on the problems and struggles of making a feature film for under $10,000. They eagerly point out plenty of the production gaffes, and Barredo even confesses to having bought a number of props at Target, and then returning before thirty days were up, and then buying them again for another thirty days. This is economical filmmaking; the crew even borrowed a wheelchair to use for a few of the tracking shots. This is a very enjoyable commentary track, and a nice compliment to the film.

Twenty-nine chapter stops and a theatrical trailer are the only other extras here.

Extras Grade: A-

Final Comments

Here is a sweet, funny independent film that will invariably get lost amidst the endless stream of larger, louder mainstream releases. This is the kind of natural, smartly written movie, made on an absolute shoestring, that Hollywood could never make as believably well with 100 times the budget. Even with its production flaws (a result of the meager budget) and the occasional stiff extra, A Real Job remains both funny and touching. I look forward to more from Ana Barredo and her Grand Fenwick team.


Rich Rosell 2002-06-10