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Overall Rating

Awesome: 25%
Worth A Look32.14%
Just Average: 21.43%
Pretty Crappy: 21.43%
Sucks: 0%

4 reviews, 4 user ratings

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by Isobel Sharp

"If this film reminds you of your job, quit. Now."
4 stars

Scientists say that when too many rats are crowded together in a too-small space, they’ll start turning on each other, and even themselves, in frustration. Lesser known studies indicate that office workers, separated too long from “fresh” air and natural light, begin having paranoid delusions and awkward sex in company bathrooms. Well, it was a movie, not a study, but it’s still pretty convincing.

Deep in the heart of Canada, four officemates have made a bet – see how long they can go without going outside. Their office is in Calgary, a city with a rather expansive downtown network of underground tunnels and over-street walkways connecting everything from apartment buildings to office buildings to malls; it’s entirely possible to go for days on end without ever having to go outside. In fact, when the film opens they’re on day twenty-four of their bet – surviving entirely on recirculated air and fluorescent light, and resorting to intrigue to affect the stability of their fellow players.

Tom (Fab Filippo) starts his day by getting high in his car, which is conveniently parked in a connected underground garage. There’s no rule against dope, as he points out to his co-worker and competitor, Curt (Gordon Currie), when Curt claims the pot is giving Tom an unfair advantage. Unbeknownst to Tom, however, Curt also has a few tricks up his sleeve, including a year-long stint indoors as a college student, where his time remains legendary. Curt’s weakness, however, is sex, which he spends the duration of the film (which takes place over about one lunch hour) trying to get from a weepy, desperate co-worker. Sandra (Marya Delver), obsessing over an offhand comment of Tom’s about the building’s air supply, begins to feel more and more smothered by the fake atmosphere, and resorts to sniffing magazine perfume inserts like they’re high-grade cocaine. Randy (Tobias Godson) is a victim of fate when Sandra passes off to him a task that – horrors! – would take him outside of the complex. Sandra claims the supervisor specifically asked that he do it, and Randy is forced into a garbage can (a dubious definition of ‘inside’) to get transported through the streets to his destination.

Tom is our narrator; this is his first real job and he’s already demoralized at the thought of forty more years of the same. His officemate Bradley (Don McKellar), known around the office as Sadly I’m Bradley, is already twenty years into his term, and a more pathetic and bedraggled role model a young man would have to work hard to find. Set with the relatively simple lunchtime task of picking up a retirement gift for the company’s founder, Tom gets distracted by a girl, and tells a nosy guy (who happens to be her boyfriend) that she’s his girlfriend. This sets off a chain of events which leads to Tom refusing to go outside, even when he believes that the boyfriend has flung himself out a window in distress at his girlfriend’s imagined betrayal. His reluctance to blow a bet is quite a surprise to Tom, who begins to examine exactly what the bet, and his life in the officeworld, is doing to his character. Tom’s personal journey covers interesting ground, much like his endless transits around the malls and halls of indoor Calgary, with their strange inhabitants and specially-designed plexiglas booths to have a good scream in, when the need strikes.

Filippo does a good job of carrying the movie; his Tom is a decent guy gone wrong, and struggling to, even in a half-assed way, figure out how to be good and sincere again. Delver’s Sandra is hilarious as she tracks her klepto boss through the malls, snorting perfume inserts and growing quietly more frantic by the second. McKellar also does a great job as Sadly I’m Bradley, who has decided to end it all and spends much of the movie silently stapling motivational signs to his chest in preparation for his final plunge out the window. Camerawork and lighting create a completely oppressive and appropriate atmosphere for the story; the viewer is brought into the complex, whether she likes it or not. It’s shot in a quick style with a lot of jump cuts and rough camerawork, which at times makes it a little tricky to watch, but recreates the crowded, busy, and out-of-control feel of the office metropolis. And the lighting is excellent – everyone looks horrible, pale with dark lips and bags under the eyes; no flattering colors in this world! They all look like exactly what they are – people who’ve been inside, living their tedious little lives, for far too long.

Little touches help complete the picture: the klepto boss who delights in evading his pursuer, the security guard who zooms his security camera in on enticing cleavage, the shots of smokers on break, inside, adding more toxins to the recycled air. Waydowntown can leave the viewer feeling a little oppressed and fidgety as well, but for good reasons – because we’re brought into the characters' world, and made painfully aware of their circumstances.

This isn’t the deepest film; the moral is pretty clear and the warnings ones we’ve heard before. But it’s done in such an engaging and convincing way that Waydowntown gives a very true, if deeply weird, picture of the modern officeworld.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=5718&reviewer=291
originally posted: 04/14/02 17:34:17
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User Comments

8/21/03 NoMargin Gary Burns work continues to evolve with his latest film. He is becoming a dynamic voice. 4 stars
12/10/02 Pierce Lanson Engaging, different, surprising, unpredictable, excellent!!!! 5 stars
10/15/02 Goestridr No it's not very deep, but it is as deep as the corporate structure it portray's. 4 stars
3/27/02 Bruno Funny, Interesting, Very Amusing 4 stars
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  25-Jan-2002 (R)



Directed by
  Gary Burns

Written by
  Gary Burns
  James Martin

  Fab Filippo
  Gordon Currie
  Marya Delver
  Tobias Godson
  Don McKellar
  Nick Cleary

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