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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Clockwatchers

Starring: Toni Collette, Parker Posey
Director: Jill Sprecher
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 105 Minutes
Release Date: May 1998
Genre: Comedy

*Also starring: Lisa Kudrow, Alanna Ubach, Helen Fitzgerald, Stanley DeSantis, Jamie Kennedy, David James Elliott, Debra Jo Rupp, Kevin Cooney

Review by Steve Rhodes
3½ stars out of 4

Temps of the world unite! It's an ugly world out there for those on the lowest rung of the business social ladder - the temporary workers.

The four brave temps in first-time director Jill Sprecher's irreverent CLOCKWATERS are ready to rebel against their oppression. Treated with worse than disdain, they are alternately ignored and ordered about like slave labor. Figuring that their latest employer, Global Credit, cannot function without them, they take a vow to skip work en masse one day. Follow-through, however, is not their strong suit.

Marvelously cast, the film stars Toni Collette (MURIEL'S WEDDING) as the timid and ambitionless worker, Iris, Parker Posey (THE HOUSE OF YES) as the rebellious leader, Margaret, Lisa Kudrow (ROMY AND MICHELE'S HIGH SCHOOL REUNION) as the no-talent, wannabe actress, Paula, and Alanna Ubach (DENISE CALLS UP) as the would-be married, Jane. Together they spend their hours looking busy while waiting for the clock to strike 5. "I can sit there and do nothing as good as anyone," Margaret explains in her rationale for why she should be considered just as competent as the workers she fills in for.

Pamela Marcotte's sets create a scarily sterile office environment that is creepily realistic. As devoid of personality as the landscape of the moon, the office has small partitions to separate the clerical workers and glass walls to ensconce the professional staff as the business equivalent of the aristocracy.

The wry script, by the director and her sister, Karen Sprecher, is full of subtle humor and poignancy. Even when the Dilbert-like situations are exaggerated, they always possess gems of frightening truth. One manager obsesses over office supply usage and another issues stern memos warning about the personal use of corporate resources, the phone system in this case. Whereas workers may not have encountered these exact forms of corporate repression, most will be able to identify with slight variations in the harassment.

Although the story is more a comedy of manners coupled with social satire, it takes the time to develop the four women into real characters with interesting backgrounds. The last half of the story concerns a mystery about an office kleptomaniac, but the movie doesn't leave much doubt about the identity of the miscreant.

The film creates four individuals whose plights are easy to empathize with and who are naturally funny without trying to be so. With its Kafkaesque plot, the characters are more pitiable than hilarious, although they are both and usually at the same time.

CLOCKWATHCERS runs 1:36. It is rated PG-13 for a little profanity and would be fine for kids around 10 and up although its office-based humor may even be over the heads of most teenagers.

Copyright 1998 Steve Rhodes

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