Vince Vaughn’s "Unfinished Business" is a Funhouse Mirror Version of my Life

I don’t want to be Vince Vaughn anymore.

Oh sure, there was a moment that I thought it would be awesome to be Vaughn (he was so money and he didn’t even know it), but that time has gone. I no longer want to be Vaughn.

That is actually not quite accurate, I’m sure being Vince Vaughn is great, what I actually don’t want is for Vince Vaughn—or the character he plays in his new movie “Unfinished Business”—to be me. Watching it though, I can’t help but wonder if they somehow knew what was to unfold in my life and sort of loosely scripted their movie around it.

“Unfinished Business,” directed by Ken Scott, finds Vaughn playing Dan Trunkman, a loving family man with a beautiful wife (June Diane Raphael), a son, and a daughter. At the outset of the movie, he is asked by his boss, Chuck (Sienna Miller), to take another pay cut despite finishing up his most productive year. So, he Jerry Maguires and starts his own firm. The rest of the movie then is a series of misadventures as Dan and his employees, Timothy McWinters (Tom Wilkinson) and Mike Pancake (Dave Franco), try to get their foot in the door and make a sale.

The movie is meant to be funny, and if you take it at face value it offers a few chuckles here and there, but not a lot. It really is not a very good movie.

As I said above, however, what if it wasn’t a comedy. What if it was a drama based on someone’s real life (mine), a lens through which people could view a slightly skewed version of my career? “Unfinished Business,” to be clear, offers up some minor villains with Chuck and the character of Jim Spinch (James Marsden), who is the manager at the company with which Dan is trying to strike a deal, and my life has no villains whatsoever, just eerie similarities.

Where? Glad you asked…

Like Dan, I have a beautiful wife, a son, and a daughter. Like Dan, at the end of last year I lost my job after having my most productive year ever. Like Dan, I have travelled to Berlin on Air Berlin for business (small thing, I know, but it all adds up). Most importantly though, like Dan, I am convinced that what I’m selling is worth buying and that all I need to do is get my foot in the door.

Sure, what he’s selling are some sort of surplus metal shavings and that’s totally different from what I’m selling (journalistic skills), but it’s that foot in the door thing that’s the important part. It is all about being able to prove that you deserve the job, the contract, the assignment, etc.

For most of “Unfinished Business,” Dan is just trying to keep it all together, trying to work out just whom he has to speak to in order to get the contract that he desperately needs. He finds he has to fly from the States to Berlin to make it all happen, and even then he can’t get the promised sit down. Getting that last meeting, getting that handshake to seal the deal was no problem when Dan was at his old job, but off on his own it’s tough, his no longer has a proven track record.

So, that’s where I found myself once I began freelancing. Working for a larger (than my personal blog/podcast) website, it was easy to show my accomplishments, because my accomplishments weren’t just mine, they were the site’s, including the number of hits. On my own, I can still show the same links, but I don’t have the audience following me, personally, to show that I still am who I was. It is a matter of convincing people anew.

Here is where, were there a villain, they would pop up, as happens to Dan in “Unfinished Business.” Dan is actively blocked from getting his foot in the door and has to work an end around (or several) to make it happen. It would be fantastic if I could show that there was a villain, someone who actively tried to stop me from making the contacts I needed and getting the interview that would help push the “Lass is More” podcast.

Such is not the case. There is no villain, not even a mundane one. My job is to just keep plugging away, to keep writing, keep trying to make contacts, keep celebrating the victories (like reviewing “Chappie” for IGN), and moving past the defeats.

One of the things “Unfinished Business” does really well is navigate Dan’s family difficulties. Dan, as I said, is just trying to hold everything together and sees his job as a necessity for keeping the family afloat. He probably puts too much pressure on himself in this area, but it’s how he sees the world. So, while away, he FaceTimes home and stays in touch, while still trying to avoid answering tough questions about cash. Dan’s family is constantly on his mind, even when he’s not doing a very good job at talking to them.

I could again tell you how that’s exactly like me, but it seems superfluous. That is, I would bet, like each and every one of us. “Unfinished Business” won’t get points for that in most reviews because it’s rarely funny and the movie is supposed to be a comedy, but some of those moments could make you cry.

In one of the more outlandish sequences in the film, Dan has to get naked to advance on the project. Literally, naked. I haven’t had to do that. Metaphorically and spiritually naked, sure. Lay bare my soul, absolutely, but not literally. But, there too, the similarity was rather eerie.

As it is meant to be a lighthearted comedy, we all know how “Unfinished Business” is going to end before it ever starts. I, however, have not come to the end of my tale, and life doesn’t always work out the way it does in the movies. Still, like Dan Trunkman, I believe in it and have to stay buoyed by that beautiful wife, son, and daughter.

How about this then – I’m not going to go and tell you that “Unfinished Business” is an hysterical movie, it isn’t, the comedy never really gets better than what you see in the trailers (although the movie is more lewd), and there’s not much of it. Plus, at its height it approaches sophomoric. Instead, imagine it as a looking glass version of life—my life, your life, anyone that has struck out on their own—and it is liable to offer as many tears as laughs. It hits too close to home without finding enough jokes about Dan’s situation — the jokes tend to come from Franco and Wilkinson’s characters, not Vaughn’s.

What it does have, [SPOILER ALERT!!!] is a happy ending. You leave the theater feeling like Dan is going to be okay, and when you feel like it’s you up there on that screen, man, is that a good feeling.

And now, sadly, I have to fully retract my opening. I would love to be Vince Vaughn’s Dan Trunkman – he’s the future version of me who succeeds. Of course, it would be nice if the movie was as successful as well.



photo credit: 20th Century FOX/Jessica Miglio

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