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6 Deadbeat Sundance Characters for Labor Day

‘Our Idiot Brother’

Nate von Zumwalt

I ‘ll sometimes find myself musing over the relevance of longstanding holidays and how, maybe, there ought to be qualifiers for who gets the day off. Exhibit A: Labor Day, celebrated by everyone from workers living a life of drudgery to students who may have never worked an honest day in their lives.

It would seem that a career spent constructing high-rises, or diagnosing maladies, or defending indigent legal clients would probably merit a day off more than, say, a professional poker player (Dan Bilzerian, insufferable trust fund bro, I’m looking at you). Alas, though probably rightly, Labor Day does not discriminate in offering relief from toil, even if that means a day of rest for the most indolent.

But in the spirit of Labor Day’s own personal Scrooge, we’ve handpicked some of our favorite deadbeat characters from Sundance films who decidedly do not deserve the day off.

Woodrow and Aiden in Bellflower

These two wayward souls are not so much degenerates as they are a couple of boys who never transitioned into manhood. In a way, they are every guy’s dream incarnate. As they prepare for a putative apocalypse, Woodrow and Aiden spend their days building flamethrowers and similar destructive weapons so that their “Medusa Gang” will be equipped during their uprising. There’s also a brilliantly crafted love story in Bellflower, but most importantly, these rascals have not earned Labor Day off.

Tommy Frigo in Adventureland

Before you get all indignant about how Jesse Eisenberg’s protagonist in Adventureland is noble for taking a humiliating job in the “Games” section of a seedy amusement park—particularly after he only does so because his parents pull the rug out from under his summer Euro trip—hear me out. Eisenberg’s James is not the culprit here. Instead, it’s the eccentric and exasperating Tommy Frigo (Matt Bush), James’s childhood friend and indubitably the least competent employee at Adventureland. He also is constantly hitting James in the balls and pulling other juvenile pranks. We all know a Tommy Frigo, and we all want him to have to work on Labor Day.

Amy Minsky in Hello I Must Be Going

Melanie Lynskey is utterly convincing as Amy Minsky, a new divorcee who is resigned to moving back in with her parents. She’s also 35. Eek. The point is, while at times endearing, and though she strikes up a layered and convoluted relationship with a teenage boy (Christopher Abbott), Amy cannot be absolved of her quintessential deadbeatery. She is the reason a list like this even exists. Sorry, Amy, no Labor Day off for you.

Jon Martello in Don Jon

In Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s impressive directorial debut, he also takes a turn as the lead, Jon Martello. Martello, however, is referred to by his friends as the titular Don Jon, as they consider him the modern day reincarnation of the famed lothario Don Juan. And though Don Jon has a gig at the bar, he is entirely consumed by the objects in his life. His incorrigible value system is defined by this common recitation of what he cares about: “My body, my pad, my ride, my family, my church, my boys, my girls, my porn.” And there you have the qualities of a devout douchebag, who, with the help of disparate relationships with Scarlett Johansson and Julianne Moore, only becomes slightly more reformed by the movie’s end.

Wendell in New Low

Adam Bowers directs and stars in this micro-budget NEXT film from the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. Bowers plays Wendell, who is relatively ambitionless apart from his job at the video store. He is also painfully awkward and annoyingly aimless when it comes to pursuing anything else—even women. That problem becomes the narrative arc of New Low, as Wendell must choose between the best and worst girls he may have ever known.

Ned in Our Idiot Brother

Ned (Paul Rudd) is truly a sympathetic character, which is also perhaps his only endearing quality. He’s a hapless full-grown adult who is recovering from a breakup and recently served a jail stint for selling weed to a cop. And now Ned’s being passed around his own family like used goods. Though he’s not the paragon of hard work and the American Dream, he is a harmless and caring soul, which ultimately shines through. Ned, you may have Labor Day off.


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