Clockwatchers [1997]

Genre: Comedy, Drama
Generation X falls into the mold. The back cover blurb of this video describes it as a "smart and wry Working Girl for a postmodern world"--but let's be clear. Actually, sisters Jill and Karen Sprecher have cowritten (and Jill Sprecher directed) a modernist dark comedy about working Generation Xers. Were it truly postmodern, it would not work so well--instead, the Sprechers have given us dark but funny commentary on working life as a temp. The clean, straight lines of cinematographer Jim Denault's aesthetic bolster the woman-against-the-world motif of the meaningless pursuit of full-time employment. Why four intelligent, capable women languish in perpetual boredom looking for this unfulfilling nirvana is not at issue, but it is this unquestioned conformity to tradition that frustrates the audience while letting us laugh at what is and is not happening. Toni Collette's (Muriel's Wedding) portrayal of Iris is sharp: a shy, mousy, somewhat insecure twentysomething provides interior monologue, both through her voice-over commentary and the notebook diary she religiously keeps, and evolves over a year of temping at a credit company--but it is difficult to explain what she evolves into. She gains an understanding of friendship and betrayal, but at the cost of not even the least sentimentality. She asserts her personal desires for career that are in conflict with those of the working world and her father, but without reaching true fulfillment. She outgrows her don't-notice-me haircut to become an assertive, self-confident person, yet suffers intensely and silently when a handsome coworker doesn't recognize her on the street. Strong performances from both Parker Posey and Lisa Kudrow (who since Friends and the witty Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion seems to be suffering increasingly from stereotyping) give Collette a solid surface off of which she bounces her quiet, psychological role to great satisfaction. --Erik Macki

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