Working It: Movies Set In The Workplace

Diverse job settings are the backdrop of comedic and dramatic events.

By Yong Shu Chiang        17 May 2022

Many of us spend much of our waking hours at work.

The same is true of fictional or based-on-real-life characters observed on movie and television screens, or the screens of whatever device you view these characters today.

The workplaces in question, among the films and series in this selection, comprise an English mansion, where a sizeable staff play their part in the lives of their paymasters; a professional basketball club filled with big egos; an imaginary world where monsters are employed to appear in dreams; a politically incorrect television news channel; a restored food truck; and an obscure vinyl record store.

While the work that is portrayed is often the source of conflict and obstacles, invariably, it is the human relationships at play that captivate the audience.

Downton Abbey: A New Era

Out now in cinemas, available at Shaw Theatres

Stars: Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery

This sequel to the 2019 film adaptation, following six seasons of the beloved historical drama of the same name, whisks us back to the country estate of the Crawley family – Downton Abbey – in the early 20th century. We are reacquainted with both aristocrats, the Crawleys and their upper-crust friends, and the humble staff of the estate, who help keep their masters’ lives in order. Here, mystery abounds over the provenance of a French villa bequeathed to Violet (Smith), the matriarchal Dowager Countess at Downton.

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Winning Time: The Rise Of The Lakers Dynasty

Available now, HBO GO

Stars: Quincy Isaiah, John C Reilly, Hadley Robinson

Basketball fans will know that the Los Angeles Lakers are one of the most successful teams ever, led over the years by big-name NBA stars such as Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. But possibly the greatest Laker was the gifted forward Magic Johnson, who transformed a previously mediocre team into the famous “Showtime” Lakers of the 1980s, leading them to multiple titles while playing an exciting fast-paced style. Based on true events, this series takes a cheeky look at how that team came to be.

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Monsters, Inc

Available now, Disney+

Stars: John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Steve Buscemi

Sulley (Goodman) and Mike (Crystal) are co-workers at Monsters, Inc., a scream factory in Monstropolis. In a world powered by the harvested screams of human children, whom monsters such as Sulley and Mike visit in their dreams, energy is growing scarce as the kids are becoming harder to scare. Then one day, a small child follows the pair into the monster world, and the duo have to find a way to send her, whom they nickname Boo, home before she is discovered and captured by the authorities.


Available now, Netflix

Stars: Jon Favreau, John Leguizamo, Emjay Anthony

The head chef of a successful Los Angeles restaurant goes viral after first sending an angry Tweet to a critical food reviewer, before later having a meltdown posted online when confronting the reviewer in person. At the heart of Carl’s (Favreau) displeasure was not being allowed to innovate as a chef. Forced out of the fine-dining scene, he embarks on an impromptu road trip in a food truck with his former line cook (Leguizamo) and estranged young son (Anthony) and rediscovers his passion for food and family.


Available now, Apple TV

Stars: Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Steve Carell

Set in 1970s San Diego, and in a male-dominated television newsroom led by the chauvinistic and often-clueless anchor Ron Burgundy (Ferrell), is this comedy about a top-rated news show, and its gender politics, being shaken up by a bold new addition. That addition is none other than the female reporter Veronica Corningstone (Applegate), a blonde, beautiful and intelligent journalist who first falls for Ron, sees him for who he is, and then becomes his greatest adversary as she rises up to the position of co-anchor.

High Fidelity

Available now, Disney+

Stars: John Cusack, Jack Black, Iben Hjejle

A self-absorbed record store owner is dumped by his girlfriend, Laura (Hjejle), and decides to take a walk down memory lane, to revisit other ex-girlfriends and find out why he keeps getting rejected. While Rob (Cusack) does this, he also keeps tabs on Laura, investigating who she’s seeing and scheming to win her back. In the midst of all his antics, Rob works half-heartedly at the store with his staff Barry (Black) and Dick, who spend more time bragging about their musical tastes than actually serving customers.

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