A movie worth… Googling
IN THE annals of Hollywood movie history, the great American workplace is most often seen as a depressing, boring and soulless environment, where workers are treated almost like slaves and bosses are cruel, petty, rapacious and ruthless.
The stereotypes are central to movies like Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times (1936), through to films like Network ( 1976) and George Clooney’s Up in the Air (2010).
But, the latest workplace movie, The Internship, which opened in South African cinemas yesterday, is the complete opposite, painting workplace life at a modern technology company as a fun-filled meritocracy, where workers and bosses are sympathetic, and where the perks are so good you never want to leave.
The film rekindles the Wedding Crashers “bromance” between Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, who in The Internship star as a couple of old-school watch salesmen who decide to apply to Google when they are fired from their jobs.
They become Nooglers (“New Googlers” for those unfamiliar with the local speech terms at the cultlike company), where their efforts to shine among 1 500 20-something brainiacs are an apt and often amusing metaphor for the struggles many older folk face in adapting to a fast-moving digital world, where youth is prized above all. They run after a car to ask directions, only to discover it’s one of the company’s driverless vehicles, and they dodge a bearded guy in yoga pants on a scooter – a cameo role for Google’s billionaire founder Sergey Brin.
The appearance of Brin underlines the immense co- operation Google gave to director Shawn Levy, whose work on A Night at the Museum apparently convinced the company that he was capable of depicting large institutions in a sympathetic light.
The film takes an uneven approach to the accuracy of its
The Internship. depiction of the web software giant. It’s true, for instance, that Google hires 1 500 of the brightest college students in the US every year, but it does not pit them against each other in ultra-competitive games as depicted in the movie.
The movie’s arch- villain, an arrogant British intern, would also probably never be accepted at Google, company insiders say.
The film seems to take the company’s motto of Don’t Be Evil at face value, and never even touches on oft- heard complaints about Google’s privacy breaches and monopolisation of web searches.
Though Google did not have veto power over any scenes, it did voice reservations over an episode in which the driverless car crashes – an incident which belied the vehicles’ exemplary safety record.
Google granted the film-makers unparalleled access to its staff and the Googleplex – its complex of luxuriously appointed buildings that are the firm’s Silicon Valley headquarters. The company’s collaborative approach was in marked contrast to the decision of Facebook to ignore and obstruct the makers of the last big tech-themed movie, The Social Network.
But, though Google comes out of the movie as a sort of workplace paradise for smart 20-somethings, the company said it had agreed to co-operate not to burnish its image, but to get more kids interested in computer science.
“The reason we got involved in that is because computer science has a marketing problem,” Google chief executive Larry Page said last month at a conference for programmers in San Francisco. “We are the nerdy curmudgeons.”
Page said the movie’s coolest character was a headphone-wearing, mostly silent engineer who ends up playing a key role in the climactic scene. – Sapa-dpa
WHACKY DUO: Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn are technologically challenged in