waydowntown (2000) / Comedy
MPAA Rated: R for language drug use, and some sexuality
Running Time: 93 min.
Cast: Fab Filippo, Marya Delver, Gordon Currie, Don McKellar, Jennifer Clement, Tammy Isbell, Tobias Godson, James McBurney
Director: Gary Burns
Screenplay: Gary Burns, James Martin
Review published May 31, 2005
Set in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, waydowntown draws its inspiration from the interconnected group of buildings, living quarters, and shopping centers in the downtown area that feature enclosed walkways to bridge you from one building to another, meant to give shoppers the convenience of movement between buildings without exposure to the cold weather conditions outside (Plus-15 it is dubbed). In essence, if you live in one of the apartment buildings, work in one of the commercial buildings, shop in the malls, and eat in the restaurants within any of the connected buildings, you may never actually set foot out in the open air of the outside world for indefinite periods of time.
Using this latter notion as a challenge, waydowntown revolves around four office workers make their own bet to see who can last the longest without going outside of the enclosed complex. Fab Filippo ("Lives of the Saints") stars as Tom, one of the contestants, who finds his form of escape from the doldrums of the game by taking a trip down to his car in the parking garage to get high. He shares an office with a suicidal and depressed loser named Brad (Don McKellar, eXistenZ), whom Tom has dubbed, "Sadly, I'm Bradley". Meanwhile, Tom's tactic of constantly reminding another contestant, Sandra (Marya Delver, Better Than Chocolate), that she is breathing nothing but perpetually recycled air has been getting to her, as she has begin to tear out perfume samples from magazines to try to mask over what she perceives to be bad air. Lastly, the engaged Curt (Gordon Currie, Highwaymen) has been on a mission to get his jollies before marriage, finally setting his sights on another engaged woman in the office of his pre-marital fling.
Although made shortly before, waydowntown has the look and feel of the smash BBC comedy, "The Office", although it has a much larger air of the fantastic about it to set it apart from other office comedies. Shot with DV cameras, it feels every bit the type of movie you'd find on IFC almost every evening of the week, but the low budget never really seems to get in the way of the film's modest goals. Although there is some mild commentary on the state of modern architecture and how we are becoming like worker ants in an anthill more and more every day, the tone always stays as light as possible, and the observations constantly interesting.
waydowntown should please those who enjoy office comedies like Office Space or those who enjoy one-setting, high concept movies filled with a variety of kooky characters like Mallrats. At 87 minutes, it doesn't outstay its welcome, although it doesn't quite become anything more than a tangentially inspired plot devised as a platform for Gary Burns' (Kitchen Party, A Problem with Fear) witticisms about the suffocating lives of office workers, who day in and day out often dream of shaking their humdrum existence for escape, although they are growing increasingly trapped through architecture and social status as the years progress. Hilarious at times, yet still a bleak commentary of the nature of urban development and its effect on human behavior.
©2005 Vince Leo