Is getting cut from the cast of an Off-Broadway play equivalent to being laid off from a real job? In the documentary Fired!, Annabelle Gurwitch uses Woody Allen's decision to drop her from one of his shows as the impetus for a nationwide quest to find other people who can share her pain. She mainly talks with show folk, since they're the ones who get canned the most, and they're the people she knows best. But it's kind of spurious to compare Fisher Stevens' inability to keep a sitcom role with the struggles of Detroit autoworkers. Fired! started life as a theatrical production, with a rotating cast of celebrity fire-ees; then it became a book. In this, its third iteration, the story of Gurwitch's humiliation and how it relates to the world at large has started to look pretty petty.


Some of the people interviewed by Gurwitch and directors Chris Bradley and Kyle LaBrache have amusing anecdotes, like Fred Willard, who got booted off a TV pilot because the producers confused him with Frank Bonner. But too many of the actors and comedians in Fired! are primarily concerned with being funny, so they exaggerate what happened to them instead of commiserating honestly. For catharsis, Gurwitch turns to psychologists and labor experts (the latter represented by Robert Reich and Ben Stein), who discuss the sense of personal devaluation that accompanies getting a pink slip. She also chats up some Michigan union men, shortly before and after GM laid them off.

A sharper documentarian might've tried harder to bridge the gap between the problems of the legitimate American work force and the struggles of relatively well-off celebrities, but Gurwitch, while charming, isn't exactly brimming with insight. She cuts off the people she's interviewing so that she can get a quip in, and she gives over a good chunk of a short movie to useless junk, like Andy Dick pretending to run a taco stand, and writer Andy Borowitz boasting prickishly about how he was too funny for his gig at The Facts Of Life. Fired! only rarely offers a penetrating sound bite like Stein's outrage at fired employees "being used as a tool to appease Wall Street," or Willard's explanation that being cut loose feels like "everyone's going to Disneyland except you." At one point, David Cross tells Gurwitch to enjoy being unemployed, because "When you're fired, you're interesting." But as Fired! proves, that ain't necessarily so.