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One Week Job

Other // Unrated // February 22, 2011
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Tyler Foster | posted March 18, 2011 | E-mail the Author
Sean Aiken is out of college and ready to hit the job market. There's only one problem: he has no idea what his passion is. Solution: try one job a week for an entire year and see if it gets him anywhere. If it sounds like a book pitch, that's because it is: Aiken turned his cross-country, 52-week adventure into a blog, which was picked up and published as a book.

Glancing at the listing for the book, it stands out that all of the positive quotations come from other authors rather than any literary critics, and it becoems clear with a little consideration that One Week Job is one of "those" ideas: all idea, no outcome. Sure, Sean will get plenty out of the experience (including, of course, a job writing about his jobs sooner than any job he actually tries out), but the journey, whether online, on paper, or on this new DVD documentary, is little more than slick, positive-reinforcement entertainment for the person on the other end. The viewer, obviously, cannot get anything meaningful out of Sean's experience as a Hollywood movie producer, and other experiences, like Sean's last job -- mayor of his hometown -- really won't do anything for Sean either, because the real experience of working in politics starts at the bottom and requires one to work their way up.

Of the three ways to experience the "One Week Job" journey, I can say, having not read the blog or the book, that they probably hit the market in order of usefulness. As a personal relay of his daily experiences, I'm sure the blog is actually the most accurate to the experience, while the book is, at its most filtered, an edited, re-arranged version that combines memory with the blog entries, or at its least filtered, a version of the online experience that presumably costs more to read. Having viewed the film itself, I can't imagine it ranking as anything more as a curiosity for those who have already digested the first two versions, because director Ian Mackenzie only grasps the superficial aspects of the experience.

One Week Job is structured less like a film and more like an episode of a television show, complete with a shiny opening credit sequence. As a show, the project might've been a mildly interesting look into the challenges of the daily grind (like the totally manipulative but much more entertaining CBS hit "Undercover Boss"), but there's really no time during the film's scant 77 minutes to cover...well, any of the jobs, which fly by in a series of increasingly repetitive two-minute "I don't know what to expect" to "what an interesting experience" montages. Of all the topics covered in the documentary, the meat and bones of the 52 jobs are almost completely ignored.

Instead Mackenzie focuses on the treacly personal ups and downs of the adventure. Aiken is certainly a congenial host, but he's nice to the point of blandness. It's wonderful that he finds ambition and romantic happiness as the journey continues, but this is supposed to be a story about the experiment, not the subject and his girlfriend. Even worse is Mackenzie's insistently melodramatic inclusion of Aiken's mother's breast cancer; it's another thing that may have meant plenty to Aiken and been important to his life, but it has nothing to do with employment or ambition. At the beginning, Aiken shrugs blankly at several speakers' "do what you love" advice, suggesting he doesn't know what he loves, yet at the end, he has nothing better to offer than the exact same platitudes, wrapped up in the guise of a motivational speaker. These days Sean runs a foundation that helps kids go on the same journey, and that's a commendable thing to do, but "doing" is what makes it commendable, and the documentary version of One Week Job is all show, and no "do".

The box art for One Week Job, depicting Sean underneath a cloud of potential employment opportunities, really plays up the experience, which, of course, is a bit of a sham. There's also a reliance (something that appears to be continued from the book) of contextless, pointless photos of Sean jumping around and having a ball, as if he's some wild and crazy personality. Again, a bit of a sham. The disc comes in a cheap plastic case with no insert. I also normally wouldn't mention it, but good grief, the plastic used on the case stank to high heaven. I don't know if it was some special kind of plastic or just a bad case, but the moment it was unwrapped, it provided a choking cloud of toxic plastic factory fumes. Yuck.

The Video and Audio
Shot mostly by Aiken himself, and later Mackenzie, on consumer-grade digital cameras, this 1.33:1 image is strictly no-frills. It's clean, it's clear, color is fine, and sometimes the picture exhibits nice fine detail, but the limitations of the source are inescapable. Along with handheld visuals comes handheld audio: a Dolby Digital 2.0 track gets the job done, even when Sean's mike picks up on background noise and other ambient noise, and the songs sound nice.

The Extras
The first extra is under the "audio" menu: an audio commentary by Aiken and Mackenzie. The pair don't have much information to offer on the making of the film, instead providing information about when and where scenes were shot, and have plenty of nice things to say about the various interview subjects.

Three deleted/extended scenes (6:29) are provided. All three are interviews; the first two are extensions of what's in the film, the third is someone entirely new (and seems less like it was shot for the film and more like it was shot to promote the website, book, or DVD). None of them are particularly revelatory. Someone who works at the site needs to learn to spell "Vonnegut", as well. A director's screening speech (2:50) from Mackenzie is, at the very least, a great sentiment, even if the film doesn't do enough to reflect the goals Mackenzie is talking about. The extras conclude with a photo gallery, and one genuinely wonderful extra: a complete listing of every cut from the soundtrack, each of which will play in full with a click of the remote.

The film's original theatrical trailer is also included.

The whole idea of Sean's experience is a shaky one when it comes to applying his experiences and discoveries to an audience, but even if his blog or book were deeply meaningful to the viewer, it's hard to think this documentary is an essential piece of the puzzle. Skip it.

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