Haiku Tunnel

Never mind the terrible title — it's one of the few things about this sly workplace comedy that doesn't quite work. Based largely on the personal experience of co-writer, -director and star Josh Kornbluth, a Bay Area monologist who once supported himself by toiling as a temporary office worker, the film concerns one "Josh Kornbluth" (Kornbluth), an...read more

Reviewed by Ken Fox
Rating:

Never mind the terrible title — it's one of the few things about this sly workplace comedy that doesn't quite work. Based largely on the personal experience of co-writer, -director and star Josh Kornbluth, a Bay Area monologist who once supported himself by toiling as a temporary office worker, the film concerns one "Josh Kornbluth" (Kornbluth), an aspiring Bay Area novelist who, well, supports himself through temp work. But Josh is no ordinary temp: Punctual and diligent, he loves his day job and just may be the best temp in San Francisco (or rather "San Franclisco," which, as Kornbluth's opening onscreen waiver assures any litigious-minded lawyers who may object to his treatment of their profession, is the entirely fictitious setting for this entirely fictitious film). Josh takes a temp job with the law firm of Schuyler & Mitchell (S & M, get it?) as administrative assistant to Bob Shelby (Warren Keith), a top tax attorney who may not be Satan himself, but whose voice can clearly be heard if you play a certain Judas Priest record backwards. Josh, who's perfectly happy working as temp, is faced with a radical lifestyle change when slithery, prune-faced head secretary Marlene D'Amore (Helen Shumaker) — that's pronounced "De-moray," like the eel — tempts him into "going perm" and accepting a fulltime position with S & M. As soon as he does, Josh begins work on his novel in earnest while still on the clock, and his work begins to suffer. The McGuffin here is an audio tape containing the text of 17 very important letters that Josh is supposed to first transcribe, then mail — a relatively simple task that somehow keeps getting put off until Josh's very job is jeopardy. The plot, such as it is, is really just a pretext on which to dangle Kornbluth's musings on office culture, and the details are just perfect, from the co-worker chit-chat over after-work drinks to the all-powerful systems administrator (Raoul Brody) who has the power to reroute Josh's print jobs to a whole other building. The film was originally developed as a monologue and at times it shows, particularly when Josh directly addresses the camera. But it never really feels stagey: Kornbluth manages to match his wordy voice over with clever visual gags and flourishes. There are a few weak spots — the ending could have used some fine tuning — but otherwise it's a solid sleeper: unassuming, unexpected and wholly entertaining.

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