New Yorkers So Zonked, They Might As Well Be Replikants
Michael M. Bilandic’s Jobe’z World begins with a stoner-logic voiceover courtesy of the titular Jobe (Jason Grisell): “I love the vibe out here. It’s so mellow and trippy. Light years away from the 24/7 shriek of mayhem and abject suffering of earth. All that harsh reality. Out here no one gives a fuck about anything. It’s real chill. It’s total nothingness. It’s less than nothingness. Sub nothingness. The ultimate nothingness. The infinite void.” Jobe obviously finds a certain cold comfort in his drug-induced galactic fantasy world. He self-medicates into a stupor to shield himself from the realities of day-to-day existence in modern day NYC. He’s not that far off from the reality of many New Yorkers.
Drugs are the absolute name of the game in Jobe’z World. The characters live and breathe and consume them as a substitute for anything that could disrupt a comfortable cocoon of stasis. Jobe and his cohorts and customers find little comfort in the here and now. So they fantasize of escape, and swap in the language and philosophies of drugs, be it MDMA or THC or opioids.
JOBE’Z WORLD ★★★ (3/5 stars)
Directed by: Michael M. Bilandic
Written by: Michael M. Bilandic
Starring: Jason Grisell, Theodore Bouloukos, Owen Kline
Running time: 67 min.
Less Than Human
On this strange and difficult path, Jobe formulates infinity in a quest for transcendence worthy of The Dude’s serendipitous redemption in The Big Lebowski, but without the warmth or humanity. The rapid disappearance of culture, logic and emotion in Jobe’z World doesn’t seem to alarm anyone involved. It brings to mind the classic Blade Runner credo of “more human than human.” The brilliant cinematographer Sean Price Williams deploys lighting in the film that’s often eerily similar to Ridley Scott’s dystopic 1982 dream of 2019.
Jobe’s world relegates humanity to the sideline. Everyone might as well be Replikants. They’re too deadened in a search for pure synthetic sympathy to care. And love? Obviously a problem for the old folks and their long-dead ancestors, as it’s never remotely approached. These mirthless pranksters don’t even curse their libido-less plights, likely deadened by porn addictions and drug side-effects. Sex only comes up via a really bad, thinly-veiled Olsen twins joke, with its punch line boiling down essentially to “beware of nubile miscreants.”
Celebrity worship comes to the fore throughout the film, coloring situations both gravely serious and darkly comical. Jobe’s mother delivers a hyperbolic monologue extolling the virtues of the philanthropist “Bono,” (mispronounced as “bone-o”). She proceeds to criticize her son’s slovenly appearance, chastising him by questioning how he can hold a job despite “your hair, your piercing, your tattoos.” He defends himself by pragmatically informing her of Justin Bieber and Mike Tyson’s face tattoos, because they’re obviously very successful and well-adjusted, before drifting into some eastern philosophy psychobabble. But he makes a valid point in an era when everyone’s grandma seems to have a septum piercing and sleeve tattoo. Nothing shocks anymore.
Jobe’z World takes an unexpectedly serious turn when Jobe visits A-list actor Royce David Leslie (Theodore Bouloukos). He delivers a drug “worse than what killed MJ and Prince put together” according to its pusher, Linda (Lindsay Burdge), who’s ostensibly Jobe’s boss. Bouloukos steals the show with his over-the-top histrionics in his interactions with Jobe. Then they do drugs. A pitch-black red herring, which breaks down the fourth wall in a manner worthy of Andy Kaufman believers, follows.
Ultimately Jobe’z World calls into question the notion of entertainment in a manner as jarring as Michael Haneke’s Funny Games. Some of these jokes really aren’t funny at all. They’re meant to inspire self-reflection from the viewer, and to question what constitutes fame and celebrity in our brave new world of Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, when any semblance of privacy has been lost and nothing is off-limits. Unfortunately, the intended audience, which is really anyone not living a lifestyle akin to the one espoused by Ted Kaczynski, won’t see the film at all, given its low budget and limited release and, ironically, lack of any star appeal.
“I love how ephemeral live streaming is. There’s no past, no future. I’ll be the director,” cackles Leslie at the grotesque crux of the film. It’s a silvery and elusive leitmotif, the antithesis of Gil-Scott Heron’s epochal posit of, “the revolution will not be televised.” And the mere mention of a revolution is anathema to the utterly checked-out characters who inhabit Jobe’z World. But given their zeitgeist, the next logical question would be: will the afterlife will be live-streamed? After copiously ingesting psychoactive drugs, most people in this endless state of catatonia would likely answer with a casual eye roll, and a shrug.