All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Dull Dissertation

October 13, 2013 § 1 Comment

In this film, PhD candidate Jack Torrence is running out of funding and really needs to finish his dissertation you guys. So he convinces his wife and kid to spend the winter in this creepy old hotel out in the middle of nowhere so he can finally get some work done, jesus. For the next few months, Jack spends his days “writing,” i.e. playing catch with himself in the great room and being a dick to everyone, because can’t they see he’s busy?? He also has a series of incomprehensible, drawn-out conversations with random strangers about his work, for example a guy he bumps into in the bathroom.

Holy 45-minute elevator pitch, Batman

It’s obvious that Jack is struggling, that he’s getting pale and increasingly irritable, but despite the stress, insomnia, and internalized sense of worthlessness he finds an odd sort of comfort in the process.

And why wouldn’t he; on the other side of the dissertation is the job market, and talk about scary! So he keeps at it, and one day, out of curiosity, his long-suffering wife sneaks a peek at Jack’s manuscript. That was a mistake, because it’s the same bit of nonsense over and over. What is she even supposed to say about that?

Unsurprisingly, Jack gets super defensive, and then things get really ugly, like Lady Gaga in a Kermit dress ugly. Like, what does it all even mean?? So many random references and bizarre asides, and still no clear thesis, right up to the end. I’d love to be a fly in that defense meeting. Blood everywhere.

No but really, Chris and I just watched The Shining. It was much funnier after I decided that this movie is actually about writing a dissertation (I laughed out loud after watching the above “Jack stares out the window at the topiary maze like a lunatic” clip, because that is a look Chris knows all too well), but couldn’t imagine that I was the only person who had that reaction. And no, I’m not. Oh well; it’s a better film because of it.


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