We reviewed Write When You Get Work when it screened at the Philadelphia Film Festival earlier this fall. As it is now entering into limited release beginning tomorrow we re-present that review as part of our coverage.
Ruth (Rachel Keller) has worked hard to her past behind her. Teen years of substance abuse, petty larceny and an unplanned pregnancy out on Long Island have given way to a job in the admissions office at a prestigious Upper East Side private girl’s school and an apartment in Manhattan. True, she is currently just the Acting Head of Admissions and while she is doing a good job her superiors are still looking for a more permanent replacement for the position elsewhere. Her apartment is barely a kitchen and a bedroom, but at least its hers alone. But her carefully constructed new life is endangered following a chance encounter with Jonny (Finn Wittrock), her old boyfriend from her teen hellion days. Soon, Jonny is worming his way back into Ruth’s life, showing up at the school posing as a prospective parent and getting close to one of the other parents. Ruth is left to figure out what scam Jonny may be running and how she can keep from being involved even though she finds her old feelings for him reawakening.
It is not quite certain what kind of film Write When You Get Work wants to be. A love story? A commentary on privilege and class in America? A heist film? The script has various elements of all these types of genres but never really commits to any of them. The romance between Jonny and Ruth progresses in jerky fits while the con game/heist that Jonny is setting up tries for clever but just comes off as convoluted and confused. Ultimately, the film is a disappointment, as a heady mix of these could make for a cinematic treat. But instead of a flavorful stew, we get weak gruel, devoid of any taste and nowhere near the sum of its ingredients.
Additionally, it seems that the script has its characters doing things in service to the story that doesn’t quite line up with their backstory as presented. Wittrock’s Jonny seems to insert himself into the upper crust world of the Manhattan well-to-do with an ease one doesn’t expect from his low stakes, conman origins. Complicating matters is Wittrock’s performance comes across as more creepy and pushy rather than the charming hustler the screenplay would want us to believe he is.
For the most part the performances are fine and serviceable. They move the story along without being too flashy. Emily Mortimer stands out as the rich housewife panicking over the fact that her cushy lifestyle could be taken at any moment thanks to her husband’s possible illegal financial dealings and who becomes Jonny’s mark. But when compared to the level of the other actors, she comes off as being in another movie entirely, hopefully for her one more suited for the work she is doing here than this.