Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Work is hell for the beleaguered temps of Clockwatchers

Illustration for article titled Work is hell for the beleaguered temps of iClockwatchers/i

Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by a new movie coming out that week. This week: The Internship inspires us to reflect on some of our favorite workplace comedies.


Clockwatchers (1997)
It may not ravage the body like a coal mine or sweatshop, but never underestimate how draining an office temp job can be. Jill and Karen Sprecher’s deadpan comedy Clockwatchers is a transparently threadbare affair, but its blank walls and flat lighting only serve to better reproduce its life-sucking environment.

What’s most striking about the film from this distance, though, is its cast, a mid-’90s dream team that includes Parker Posey, Lisa Kudrow, and Toni Collette. Add Bob Balaban as a scatterbrained boss and the recipe for comic bliss is complete. The film’s depiction of the soul-deadening boredom and dehumanizing anxiety that defines temping is bitterly funny. While Posey and Colette deftly balance absurdity and pathos, Kudrow sketches a woman who can’t break the habit of dreaming big, even as she’s nearly given up all hope. In the years since 1997, the percentage of the corporate labor force employed on a no-strings-attached basis has only grown, lending a subtle note of impending tragedy to Clockwatchers’ farce.


Unfortunately, the Sprechers’ conviction falters in the second half, as they abandon satire for schlumpy indie drama. The characters they’ve assembled aren’t deep enough to carry the movie, which gradually breaks apart. But perhaps it’s fitting that Clockwatchers only works for a while, as if its contract was canceled without notice halfway through.

Availability: A DVD, which can be obtained through Netflix.

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