Socially Conscious Comedy 'You're Hired,' Despite Good Bones, Misses the Mark

[L-R] Isaiah Locust as MILES; Tristan Conner as DYLAN in YOU'RE HIRED

Daniel B. De Sangre and Rickey Teems II, known collaboratively as 4ARCK Entertainment, combine their filmmaking talents to make You're Hired, a comedy about race and identity in today's tricky cultural climate. While the movie has solid bones, multiple production flaws and questionable attempts at humor keep the film from reaching any level other than mediocre.

After Will, a valued employee at DanRick Designs, dies in a mysterious accident, two employees, one Black and one white, discover they are lead candidates vying for a promotion. Each of them "needs" the money for external reasons. While Dylan Kirkpatrick (Tristan Conner), white, wants to stop his Mom from selling his childhood home for extra cash, Miles Fuller (Isaiah Locust), Black, plans to sponsor the kids at the community center who need funds to enter a prestigious robotics competition. Initially, both have the attitude of "may the best man win," but when their family members and co-workers convince each of them that they don't stand a chance due to race, Miles and Dylan begin an escalating war of attrition against one another, staging a series of pranks that make life at work uncomfortable. "It's a white man's garden, and we just handle the manure," says Miles' Dad, while Dylan's Mom quips, "You're good, but you're not Black." Meanwhile, the many co-workers at DanRick Designs each have their own challenges to overcome.

De Sangre and Teems want You're Hired to be a socially conscious Office Space for today, poking fun at woke culture and the way such things play out in an office setting. While Dylan and Miles try to one-up each other and win the position, the story also spends time observing the corporate culture at DanRick Designs. We watch the diverse cast of characters as they hang out in the break room, attend training, and celebrate birthdays. In one overt homage, the HR manager Harry (Harry Fowler) even has trouble firing an employee that keeps showing up to work, red stapler in tow.

In truth, De Sangre and Teems chose a solid concept for the film. The logline and synopsis sound funny from the get-go. The topic of race relations remains controversial in the Age of Social Media, so the time is ripe for stories that manage to relay a socially conscious message within a genre. Not many filmmakers have attempted socially conscious comedy, because when it comes to hot-button issues, it's so difficult to find that perfect balance of provocative and funny, while avoiding being insensitive. The best recent example remains Dear White People, directed by Justin Simien. Dear White People brings truths to the surface that need to be said, while also avoiding scenes that didn't add to that story. Each character interaction, even when played for laughs, contributes to the larger picture. While You're Hired has some truths to share, they are sadly buried underneath many unnecessary and confusing characters and plot elements that muddle the message.

Several of the cast members, particularly the leads, give spirited performances. Locust as Miles has a promising future as a comic actor, especially roles that make use of physical acting. In one scene Miles and Dylan are given a bottle of water laced with peyote to slake their thirst and the pair make genius body language choices that prove something is off way before we understand the reason. Robert Van in a role only credited as CEO Pete all but steals the show towards the end. Unfortunately, most of the rest of the cast gets lost in the land of characters operating only as stereotypes. They are exaggerated to great extent and are given little material to work with in creating a nuanced character.

Stephany (Stephany Rashel) plays a Latina who can't speak Spanish yet goes to work in a sparkly cocktail dress appropriate for a QuinceaƱera for some reason. She must convince her friend that Sanj (Divyansh Sharma), who is Indian (and of course from the tech department) is indeed Hispanic. But why? Harry, the Black HR director, seems obsessed with covering up a particular birthmark and sings off-key songs in the bathroom about "being a man." There is Ant (Ray Dennis) a Black janitor who carries around a plunger but won't clean up any bathrooms. And then there's Brendan (Brendan Takash), a sex addict who works alongside Harry in HR but sits around masturbating at his laptop all day. In one of the worst scenes, Brendan inappropriately touches a female co-worker as an example during sexual harassment training. Although she gets her revenge, the moment took me out of the action and seemed gross rather than humorous. Such one-dimensional characters seem like they could be placeholders in a murder mystery game, rather than the nuanced characters one would expect from a "woke" comedy.

From a technical perspective, some of the shots are well framed, yet this is applied unevenly. The transition shots, B roll, nature scenes, overhead shots, and some of the final bar scenes seem well crafted. Yet whenever the attention focuses on the actual characters, the shots look cheap. Using the same level of expertise across the film would have served the team better. Title and end credits are written using typefaces that haven't seen the light of day since the 1990s, and the graphics and signs used to create the office setting look like something used in a high school production. And just what is the nature of the business done at DanRick Designs? Based on the rotating screensaver, nothing respectable, and it was difficult to tell whether that choice was played to be funny or if DanRick is a front for escort services. A few times the directors interject techniques that seem forced, like when they show the two leads facing off in the showdown style of an Old Western. Sure, who doesn't love a good tumbleweed scene, but the choice seems more of an attempt to make use of clever film school lessons, rather than a well-thought decision.

The greater sins of the production arise out of a few main issues. Actors speak too quickly and with no diction, leaving viewers unable to appreciate much of the screenplay, even when it is funny. Lainee (Jaida Grace), the child intern shadowing the boss, is the worst sinner in this department. But most of the cast rush a line at least once (save the superstar CEO Pete, who remains uncredited in the film's IMDB page), forcing viewers to strain to hear the jokes.

One tone deaf moment that can't be forgiven -- Ant knocks out Jose (Paul Guzman), who tries to hold up a coffee shop with a gun. After the police arrive, a white officer enters and puts his knee on Jose's neck while his fellow officers encourage him to stop. With the country still recovering from the murder of George Floyd in 2020, the inclusion of this scene is heinous.

You're Hired has a solid story concept and some good actors in the cast, but the mix of low-brow humor with socially conscious messaging doesn't work. Teems and De Sangre have a message they want to share that at the end of the day, we are more similar than different. But the stereotypical characters and crude and offensive humor keep that message buried.

Release info: Available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime, Google, Apple now.

Final score: 1.5 out of 5

Movie poster for You're Hired