PG Score: 7/10
The Last Shift is a quirky and engaging dramedy. It provides timely social commentary and features strong performances from Richard Jenkins and Shane Paul McGhie. The film follows a veteran fast-food employee named Stanley (Richard Jenkins), who is finally prepared to hang up his apron after 38 years. The catch is he has to train his replacement, Jevon (Shane Paul McGhie), an outspoken young man with a very different outlook on life. The contrasting perspectives between the main characters can be attributed to age, race, and differing life experiences. Stanley is set in his ways and extraordinarily dedicated to his work, however inconsequential it may seem. He treats the passing of the spatula as a sacred process and is dismayed when his protégé doesn’t do the same. Jevon accepts the position out of necessity and isn’t shy about voicing his opinions, especially those concerning Stanley’s career choice. The pair’s personalities clash heavily throughout most of the movie but their differences also bear some eye-opening fruit. The Last Shift is a pretty even split between comedy and drama. It combines the two successfully for the most part. Rather than implement the traditional method of consistently blending the two genres throughout, it employs a transition from one genre to the other at a fixed point. This unconventional approach is a double-edged sword. One negative is the humor is a bit disappointing. Some of the pop culture references are dated and obscure, which leads to many of the punchlines failing to land. Thankfully, the film fares far better once it shifts to a drama. Writer/Director Andrew Cohn (Medora) approaches the topics of race and social class in a subdued yet effective manner. The messaging is rarely heavy-handed and it never feels forced. The takeaways arrive organically and are reached through convincing character development and plausible circumstances. This is as much a testament to Cohn’s writing as it is to the acting and on-screen chemistry of Richard Jenkins and Shane Paul McGhie.
Richard Jenkins boasts an impressive collection of credits for both comedic and dramatic roles. His work in The Last Shift is further evidence of that fact. His portrayal of Stanley’s increasingly conflicted nature and alterations in thinking are truly something to behold. Jenkins delivers at an exceptionally high level and his acting alone makes this one worth seeing. Shane Paul McGhie officially has a breakout performance under his belt. He exhibits some striking range as he displays the gradual and believable character growth in Jevon. He effectively reels off cynical one-liners and handles the weightier exchanges with Jenkins’ Stanley in an equally proficient fashion. Assuming he can maintain this quality of work, McGhie has a bright future ahead of him. In addition to the underwhelming humor, the other flaw that stands out is the ending. It feels somewhat incomplete and rushed. While there is something to be said for ambiguity, a more definitive and thorough climax felt necessary. Andrew Cohn’s fast-food-focused microcosm is by and large a success. Elevated by powerful performances from Shane Paul McGhie and Richard Jenkins, The Last Shift is worth clocking in for.