Directed by Jill Sprecher
Cast: Toni Collette, Parker Posey, Lisa Kudrow, Alanna Uback, Helen Fitzgerald, Stanley DeSantis, Jamie Kennedy, Kevin Cooney, Paul Dooley, Bob Balaban.
1997 93 minutes
Rated: (for brief language).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, November 15, 1998.
Jill Sprecher's "Clockwatchers," is my favorite type of film. It is a film that effortlessly observes characters and situations in an everyday setting, and feels as if you could be watching a documentary because it is so real.
At the start of, "Clockwatchers," Iris (Toni Collette), a shy, frumpy-looking young woman, starts a job at a credit office as a temp secretary, and is able to break out of her weak shell thanks to meeting and becoming friends with three other temps at the office---the rebellious Margaret (Parker Posey), who shows Iris the ropes; Paula (Lisa Kudrow), a beautiful woman who always claims she is in the middle of acting jobs, but we sense is just trying to cover up her unhappiness; and Jane (Alanna Ubach), who is about to marry an insensitive guy who tries to buy her things everytime he does something wrong. As the film follows these four completely original and intriguing characters, an underlying story develops, involving a mystery worker at the office who is stealing the belongings of everyone else. Could one of Iris' friends be behind the crime, or is it Cleo (Helen Fitzgerald), an unusual, silent character who has just been brought into the company as vice executive?
"Clockwatchers" is a jewel of a film, and it was so refreshing to watch the characters and their various interactions with each other that I totally got caught up in it.
Thanks to the smart, perceptive screenplay, also written by Sprecher, and the performances by all four leads, the characters easily were able to come alive. Collette is outstanding as the repressed person in the group who slowly grows stronger as she becomes friends with the other three. Posey is winning and humorous, as a woman who hides behind a shield of one-liners and sarcasm, blocking herself from everyone else. And Kudrow is startlingly touching as the blonde bombshell who knows she isn't getting what she expected out of her life.
The mystery that surrounds the picture does not feel at all like a gimmick, even though it very well could have, and is highly unpredictable and surprising, and the final revelation is quiet and moving.
Credit also must go to the way that the film portrays the life of an office worker. For temp secretaries, their days are filled with long, empty hours of sitting, being bored, and doing petty chores such as copying applications and stapling papers. We rarely ever get to see this sort of close observation in a work setting on film, and it was fascinating from the first frame to the last.
If there is any sort of problem with "Clockwatchers," it is that more could have been done with the supporting characters, but this does not at all put a dent in the effectiveness of, "Clockwatchers," which is an affirming, confidant first film from Jill Sprecher, a talent I hope we get to see a lot more of in the future.
© 1998 by Dustin Putman