Will (Teller) has just graduated from college and spent 2 summer unpaid internships for LA Weekly who has guaranteed he can work a paying job there after graduation. His girlfriend Jillian (Kendrick) has become a sales analyst at Johnson & Johnson. As soon as Will arrives to start his job for his employer Brian Bender (John Cho), the first thing Brian tells him is "We don't have a job for you". Brian's explanation for why? The company's downsizing! Will runs to his dad Roger (Cranston) begging for more money. Roger at first refuses, but as Will starts angrily preaching to his dad for not being reasonable, Roger asserts that he lost his job as well. Roger is now in the same boat as Will and so Roger also has to go out and find a job as well.
His parents unable to support him anymore, his dad also failing to get a job on account of old age, and job postings on the Internet asking for much more than just a college degree such as a lengthy history of work experience and professional knowledge of medicine, law or mechanics, what's Will to do?
Get a Trope:
- Bad Boss: Brian Bender, Will's could-have-been boss and an employer at LA Weekly, who lays off Will right before he can even begin his job without even bothering to notify Will before he came for work. Will begs for his job back, prompting Brian to coldly reply that he also laid off 8 other employees, and when Will starts angrily throwing a tantrum demanding more than just an excuse for being laid off, Brian stands up to him affirming "I don't owe you shit!"
- Cardboard Box of Unemployment: Roughly 40 to 50 people all working for one company get laid off and are escorted by security tasked with warding off whoever stays or protests while holding such boxes.
- Clueless Aesop: While the message that self-sufficiency and financial independence is spewed all over the movie, it's clear that employment happens to you by chance rather than effort and hard work. Will although he worked hard and racked up a lengthy history of work experience was laid off before he got hired because a recession made his workplace go through downsizing. He was anything but lazy, and yet struggled to find employment.
- Descent into Addiction: Jillian after getting fired from Johnson & Johnson and racking up over $90,000 in debt starts giving into smoking weed and playing video games.
- Entitled Bastard: Will himself, he thinks he's entitled to a job or free food and room because he just graduated college even picking a fight with a stripper (Tara) for the free buffet at the strip club (even though the buffet's for paying customers only).
- Failure Montage: Will has one while trying to find money after LA Weekly laid him off: first he takes up a job as a motel manager but stupidly let prostitutes and their pimp rent a room which got him fired (he wasn't thinking straight really, all he cared about was "When's my first paycheck?" and overlooked just who he rented a room to), then he asks his dad for money but it turns out by some hugely bad coincidence that his dad was recently laid off, then he tries to make a sexy video of Jillian and put it on the Internet.
- Gone Horribly Right: Roger said that he did such a good job streamlining the beverage supply chain that he rendered his own job obsolete and so he was laid off.
- Hypocrite: Will complains to Tara the stripper doing a lap dance on him while naked that he has a girlfriend (Jillian), but then he tries filming a sexy video of Jillian to monetize off of it. Jillian calls him out and demands he stop harassing her for money.
- Improbable Age: Roger's main obstacle to finding another job is that he's a lot older than what potential employers are looking for. In his first interview after getting laid off, Roger is called a dinosaur who should lose the beard.
- It's All About Me: Tough times and stagnant economy calls for less sharing and more fighting.
- Jerkass Has a Point: Brian retorts that he doesn't have to hire Will and assign him a paying job just for working 2 summer internships unpaid. This is true in reality; unpaid internships do not guarantee you a paying job even if accompanied by verbal promises. Companies hire you voluntarily and have the legal freedom to dismiss you at any time.
- Ms. Fanservice: Tara the stripper (Cameron Richardson) and Jillian (Anna Kendrick), both of whom are quite large-breasted.
- Politically Incorrect Hero: Even if it is to make rent, Will's idea of putting up a video of his own girlfriend in her underwear isn't very ethical.
- Small Role, Big Impact: John Cho's character Brian who gets only one scene. The movie's plot wouldn't have happened if Brian chose not to lay off Will before his first day of work.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: Will after he loses his job for LA Weekly as a video editor. This is how it goes:
- Will starts screaming at Brian demanding his job back and attacks his self-esteem, which is a total jackass move that only pisses off Brian who rebuffs he does not legally or personally owe Will anything.
- Will picks a fight with a stripper over the buffet at the strip club because he wouldn't pay.
- Will tries to force Jillian to make a sexy video so he can monetize it.
- Will makes his dad hand over his own urine for a drug test to get a new job.