12 Hour Shift
by Hope Madden
“My mama always said, never trust a skinny woman. While we are eating, they are plotting.”
The skinny woman in question is Mandy (Angela Bettis, glorious as always). And she’s skinny for a reason.
It’s the tail end of 1999 somewhere in Texas and Mandy’s just starting a 12 Hour Shift. She’s a nurse (on probation) in a hospital that’s not well staffed, not well run, and losing more patients and organs than it has a right to.
Writer/director Brea Grant strikes an intriguing tone. Her film’s humor is simultaneously deadpan, macabre and very silly. It’s an unusual spot to hit because you don’t root against any of the bad guys, even though they’re doing horrible and often needless things to perfectly likable people. Mainly out of stupidity.
Bettis is dead-eyed perfection, her unflappable nature a front for reluctant tenderness. She’s orbited by a wild assortment of hicks, Karens, low-rent crime lords, criminals, hypochondriacs, bumbling cops, and drugs. So, so many drugs.
Boldly colorful and strikingly stupid, Chloe Farnworth’s Regina is a wonderful counterpoint to Mandy. Together the two generate laughs with the kind of frustrating bond you only have with kin.
Nikea Gamby-Turner’s comfortable presence creates a great energy, while producer David Arquette essentially plays David Arquette (but he does it so well!).
Grant’s film is ghoulish and tense, with a genuinely unexpected musical number. It’s a hard film to nail down, and though it plays out like a long and especially bloody sitcom, the utter lunacy of the plot feels grounded in an authentic exhaustion and insanity known only to those who work in hospitals.