The key to success is taking sh*t.
That is the only note I took early in my screening of the movie Horrible Bosses last week, mostly because I was then too busy laughing. Quite a testament to this hilarious flick from someone who is prone to find the message in everything. But my press sheet had already set things up nicely to the contrary.
... [T]heres really no message here, it quotes director Seth Gordon as saying.
OK, then. Lets settle in and go for a ride.
Jason Batemans character utters the above quote in the beginning of the movie when his boss-- deliciously played by Kevin Spacey -- rides him unmercifully for being two minutes late. We quickly see how the lives of this guy and his two friends (played by Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day) would be markedly improved if their bosses (Colin Farrell and Jennifer Aniston, respectively) were out of the picture.
It seems the key to their success is indeed taking sh*t. And havent we all known that feeling at one time or another? Therein lies the appeal of Horrible Bosses. It is hitting in an era when more people than ever are stressed at work, often wondering how they wound up slogging away for inept, egomaniacal or out-of-touch supervisors. It is cathartic entertainment in troubled times, when so many are feeling backed in a corner, resentful, and in an endlessly looping grind. Hijinx and a hit man are just what the doctor ordered.
The cast is chock full of fine-to-great actors, but I must make special mention of Aniston, whose deviation from every girl into vixen is just a blast to watch. Kind of jaw-dropping, actually. From all accounts she relished the challenge of the role, which brings me to the & well, lets call it message by association, of the film.
Is there a better place for expression than art? Whether releasing anger, oozing sexuality or spilling sorrow via an artistic means or simply ingesting someone elses version of it and laughing uproariously, a creative outlet is our healthy friend. As I sat in my Dantes Inferno class less than 24 hours after seeing Horrible Bosses, I couldnt help but laugh at how Dante, too, was doing just that in the 1300s--using his poetry gift to banish real people to eternal punishment in the hurricane of Hell in perpetual motion.
Dante doesnt just send people to one big place called Hell, he parses according to the level of sin, whether or not they wronged him personally, and even singles some of them out for an extra dose of suffering. That it is methodical and medieval makes it all the more riveting.
The rest of us wind up rooting, projecting our own frustrations and ill will onto characters in a book or on screen. We rub our hands together and lick our chops at seeing where people eventually go or how theyll be categorized. In Horrible Bosses, there are sins of greed and carnal yearnings by the one-dimensional bosses, intent to murder by the average-guy employees and even an in-between -- the hit man played by Jamie Foxx who steals but isnt what he portrays himself to be.
In a film like Shawshank Redemption, certainly more serious in tone, we delight in the revenge exacted by Andy Dufresne when he breaks out of prison. The Clint Eastwood classic, Sudden Impact, has us holding our breath and quietly cheering on a woman who is executing people who gang-raped her earlier in her life. By the end, there is a feeling of, Whew, thats all cleaned up.
It is therapeutic to create punishment for those who have wronged us. This is why I crafted an assignment for some of my life coaching clients whose persistent inner critics are blocking them from taking their art to the next level. The idea is to create a dialogue between their critic and their inner artist and see what pours out. They can plot the critics demise or smack down and have their creative (true) self emerge victorious.
Sometimes, though, its helpful to work it the other way around. One of my favorite writing prompts in a journal I have calls for taking a classic fairy tale and rewriting it from the villains point of view. What makes him tick? Why is she so vindictive?
Hopefully in our real, live interactions we mature and use these entertainment outlets as just that, outlets. My Dante course instructor talks about the use of palinode -- an ode in which the writer retracts a view or sentiment expressed in an earlier poem (according to Wikipedia) -- in Inferno. Ideally, there are distinctions like that on our journey, too, if we evolve and see others as flawed humans just like us.
But sometimes, just for a few hours, its good to regress through someone elses tale of vengeance. The theme in Horrible Bosses is not new, but a fresh take for our times.
No message needed.
Nancy Colasurdo is a practicing life coach and freelance writer. Her Web site is www.nancola.com and you can follow her on Twitter @nancola. Please direct all questions/comments to FOXGamePlan@gmail.com.