Ever been in the position where you were asked to train your replacement? I have and it was a moment riddled with conflict. Why? On one hand, you want to put your best foot forward assisting this person in their new gig, yet at the same time secretly not wanting them to be better than you. I know that’s messed up. But let’s be honest, I’m not alone in that sentiment…that is a fact.
However, after 38 years Stanley (Richard Jenkins) has come to the point of retirement from a small burger joint in small-town Michigan called Oscar’s. Within the first few moments of the film watching him prepare, a chicken sandwich with so much pride as he wraps and adds it to the drive-through order of some high school kids coming from a football game, you realize that he is the last relic of a time that is long gone in America. Especially now.
The most interesting thing about this whole film is the manner in which he chooses to train his replacement Jevon (Shane Paul McGhie). Jevon defaced a federal monument, insulted his arresting officer and needs the job, but he knows what a dead end it is. What he really wants to pursue is a writing career, but we all know that that lane is sketchy at best and takes a minute to infiltrate as a success.
The relationship and bond that forms between Stanley and Jevon make this film totally worth the watch. McGhie and Jenkins are masterful at banter and give these characters substance and humanity that extends well beyond the page.
Written and directed by Andrew Cohn, who is known for his lane of documentaries centered around the American dream gone awry provides you with a bigoted white man who doesn’t really understand that his prejudice is exactly what exudes via most conversations with his trainee – Jevon. It’s like Stan got stuck in 1955 or something and is now faced with the stark reality of the world around him like a stinging smack in the face. His bigotry is undercover and on total display in the way he passive aggressively dismisses his boss Shazz (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) and sings the praises of the immigrant prep cook Fernando (Dano Duran).
Produced by Sony Pictures, The Last Shift provides a brilliant showcase for Richard Jenkins, waste some prime opportunities to allow McGhie shine to his full potential, but succeeds in the message of sometimes you just gotta make your own breaks instead of waiting for the opportunity to find you.