Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Waydowntown (2000)

Starring Fabrizio Filippo, Don McKellar, Gordon Currie, Marya Delver, et al
Rated R, 87 minutes

“Waydowntown” is director/writer Gary Burns’ commentary on the corporate lifestyle and Calgary’s fading downtown. The Plus-15 network of above-ground walkways makes it possible to always stay inside. Office towers, shopping malls and apartment complexes are all linked in one way or another. Four cubicle denizens decide to bet a month’s salary apiece on who can stay inside the longest. We join them in the middle of a typical day on the bet.

Tom (Filippo) is our narrator. He is portrayed as the most normal, smoking pot to deal with the stress. He actively questions life in the office, and notices his priorities changing for the worse in this environment. Curt (Currie) is a sort of stuck-in-college “ladies’ man” who performed a similar bet in his university years. Sandra (Delver) is assigned to babysitting the company’s elderly boss. She’s beginning to feel claustrophobic inside their glass bubble. Tom’s cube-neighbor Bradley (McKellar) is a bystander to the proceedings. His longevity at the company, combined with his lack of accomplishment, has him feeling suicidal. And fourth in on the bet is Randy.

That’s all you really need to know about Randy. Perhaps his big character moments were left on the cutting room floor. But in the release version, he plays C-story to the tales of the other three and Bradley. Did this movie market better with an even number of people betting or something?

I praised 1978’s “Dawn of the Dead” just for bringing me into the shopping mall of the 70s. I’m just a sucker for retail and capitalism I guess. “Waydowntown” gets similar kudos for its unique indoor cityscape, but it doesn’t boost the overall score too much.

Removed several weeks from seeing it, I’ve been able to draw a clearer conclusion on the movie’s statements about office life and modern-day conveniences like the walkway system. However, the film’s surrealist nature threw a lot of things in your face that never fleshed out in my opinion. I felt something larger was being reached for, but never got paid off. Maybe that in itself has to do with the message. One character says we can’t have moments like they do “in the movies.” Well maybe I’m too traditional, but this IS the movies, and I should come out with something. Confusion and apathy is not something in this case.

**¾

There were some clever bits embedded here, I’ll admit. “Waydowntown” appeared to have some tools with which to make a good viewing experience. Maybe my score reflects the fact I was told this was a comedy, and the movie didn’t deliver a whole lot of belly laughs. If someone were to rein in the more “out there” tendencies of this movie, maybe it could have delivered something more solid.

2 comments:

say_andy said...

Nah, your score is about right. There was some funny ideas here (during the winter, I rarely leave the plus 15 system while at work either), but plenty of flaws that kept them from working out. Sure, Burns was working from an ultra-low budget, which is why he gets a lot of slack around these parts (plus, people got a kick over a movie filmed in Calgary that was actually set in Calgary, rather than the Old West, or Metropolis). But there's plenty of crap in this that has nothing to do with budget. In particular, the superhero stuff was distractingly unnecessary.

JasonA1 said...

Yeah, that was pretty much what I meant with regards to "reaching for something larger." A lot of things were touched upon that should have added up to a greater whole, but it never did.