Actress/comedienne Annabelle Gurwitch's no-frills film about the psychic cost of getting canned fulfills the "don't get mad, get even" fantasies of every newly unemployed basket case. She opens with the thrill of being told Woody Allen wants to read her for the upcoming off-Broadway mopefest "A Secondhand Memory," snarkily styling re-enactments of her joy at being anointed by the god of gripe in the style of his own black-and-white films. Then she belly flops into the agony of being unceremoniously rejected. "It's all bad," Allen whines cruelly. "None of it's good." Her voice hurts his ears, she looks "retarded," and she should never, ever do whatever it is she thinks she's doing again, "not even in somebody else's play." Ouch.
After the requisite weeping and testing the limits of her friends' patience, Gurwitch finds solace and a new career in the fact that she's not the only person who ever lost a job under humiliating, unfair, ego-destroying circumstances. She collects stories and turns them into a series of off-Broadway stage events, writes the well-reviewed Fired!: Tales of the Canned, Canceled, Downsized and Dismissed and finally spins the whole experience into a good-natured film. Since many of the rueful raconteurs are Gurwitch's peers, their tales are spun with professional elan: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air creator Andy Borowitz's account of being fired as a The Facts of Life writer for "not getting Tootie"; Tate Donovan's wounded fury at being dumped from the film version of TORCH SONG TRILOGY (1988) because Matthew Broderick suddenly became available; and Fred Willard's ouster from a TV pilot whose producers thought they'd hired WKRP in Cincinnati's Frank Bonner. And just when the film seems to be getting bogged down in "before I made it big" anecdotes — around the time she and Andy Dick, who was once dismissed from a food-service gig, spend a day operating a mobile lunch stand — Gurwitch wisely broadens her focus, interviewing ordinary victims of corporate "right-sizing," plant closings and the whims of employers determined to keep costs down at any cost, as long as someone else has to pay it. She visits job fairs, talks to union representatives, takes a class in job transitioning and gets W. Bruce Cameron, who escaped his job in human resources after writing 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter, to spill the beans about those nice people in HR: They're the running dogs of management, not your friends. And in the end, Gurwitch has the last laugh. That's the kind of story every pink-slipped employee needs to hear. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh