Our Favourite Interview Scenes On the Silver Screen
A job interview is something the majority of us experience in life, with its own certain rules and conventions. This makes it a perfect scene as the raw material for many memorable scenes in film.
Many times these scenes are played for comedy, such as in Stepbrothers where Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly’s characters ‘interview as a pair’, leading to a number of wild conversations that often end with them insulting the interviewer and then being told to get out of their office.
Another humorous example can be seen in Trainspotting, where Spud (Ewen Bremner) deliberately gives a disastrous interview in order to remain on his benefits scheme. Here, he admits to lying on his CV whilst high on amphetamines and speaking complete nonsense to those judging him.
The idea of somebody else having the power to judge you has also been a topic tackled in many different ways. Trainspotting frames Spud as being very far away from the other people in the room, isolated and outnumbered. It’s a cold and uncomfortable setting reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange in its angles. The 2005 remake of Fun with Dick and Jane goes for a different approach, with Jim Carey’s Dick arriving in the carpark for his interview. Spotting other people similarly dressed in suits and holding briefcases, he begins to run to get ahead of them, leading to a cartoonish race between more and more suited men. As he reaches his destination, a never-ending queue of people is shown to already be there, revealing the prior escapade to be pointless and hinting that employment here is almost impossible. A cinematic representation of what many feel when searching the job market.
Dick does, however, get invited to take a seat after being recognised by somebody, showing how being known beforehand can often raise one’s chances of employment. It is, however, revealed that he has not been invited into the office for an interview but instead to be laughed at for his prior mistakes in a previous job. Here, the fear of humiliation and failure is taken to its illogical conclusion into absurdism. A similar scene can be seen in the 2003 drama Monster, where Charize Theron plays real life serial killer Aileen Wuornoss. She applies to be a lawyer without having any of the qualifications or experience and thus her interviewer treats her like an idiot, insulting and talking down to her. Wuornoss explodes back in response with curses as any veneer of respectability within the interview is destroyed.
Thankfully, there are examples of successful interviews in cinema. Often these show characters who are able to apply some of their own control onto the situation. In The Pursuit of Happiness, Will Smith seems to be out of luck after circumstances cause him to arrive at his interview in painter’s clothes but after he cracks a joke which lands with the higher ups, his fortunes are turned around.
Dustin Hoffman’s character in Kramer Vs. Kramer is portrayed as single minded in his hunt to get a job, needing one by the end of the day to be able to show an ability to financially care for his son. In his interview he impresses but is told that he will have to wait two weeks to find out because of the Christmas holidays. Kramer refuses and states that it is a one day only offer, causing the boss to leave the Christmas party happening next door in order to see him. His dogged determination proves a successful strategy, however, as he does get the job before the end of the day.
Finally, Anne Hathaway is shown to be woefully unprepared in her interview in The Devil Wears Prada. Having little knowledge or even interest in the fashion industry, she is quickly dismissed by the magazine editor Miranda Priestly. Angered by the lack of respect, Hathaway speaks her mind to Streep’s character in a way that allows the latter to think that she may actually fit in this cutthroat world.
Besides from comedy and drama, job interviews have also featured in some of the most respected horror films. In Stanley Kubrick’s version of The Shining, Jack Nicholson is hired to be the caretaker of the Overlook hotel. During his interview he is told about what happened to his predecessor and the grisly murders that took place there, the first mention of how the place can hold ghosts of the past.
Similarly, in Takashi Miike’s Audition, Shigeharu interviews a number of women for an alleged acting role that doesn’t actually exist. Instead the ruse is used to find the man a suitable partner. Through the various interviews we see a number of comedic conversations but this is also the first time the main character interreacts with Asami, the woman who will change his life completely, but maybe not in the way he thinks.
Through these examples we can see that job interviews in film can go in a variety of different directions with various atmospheres and outcomes. These often conveys one’s greatest hopes or fears regarding the situation, amplifying those anxieties to the maximum in order to get comedic or cringeworthy results. From the inspirational to the farfetched, these situations remain uncommon in reality but allow for great viewing experiences.
Felix Hockey studied film studies at Queen Mary University of London before doing a Masters in Japanese studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies. He has been a conference assistant for the NZSA since 2014 and has also written reviews of various media concerning the Moai of Rapanui for Moaiculture.com.
Felix is a writer of a number of short films that have played at various festivals and has a keen interest in Japanese cinema.
You can find Felix’s LinkedIn profile here.