return to screencuisine



Starring Toni Collete, Parker Posey, Lisa Kudrow, and Alanna Ubach

Directed by Jill Sprecher



Short Summary:  Four temps do nothing.

Extended Summary:  Reality programming has its good points and bad points.  Sure, it's interesting to see life as it really is, but this can be taken a little too far.  The film Clockwatchers takes the bold and horrifying step of portraying a temp's life as it truly is, unbearably boring and uneventful, by itself being unbearably boring and eventful, only more so.  

The movie does live up to it's name, however; the characters do watch a lot of clocks.

Clockwatchers depicts the "experiences" of four female temps all working for the same credit company.  They each have four distinct and highly original personalities.  There is Iris (Toni Collete), who is a shy, insecure temp, illustrated by the fact that her hair hangs in her face and she walks around, head down, clutching herself.  We get the feeling that somewhere underneath this shy exterior there is a confident go-getter, ready to be born.  And we are right!

Paula (Lisa Kudrow) is the horny temp that likes guys, because every sentence out of her mouth mentions guys and how horny she is for them.  She wears a short skirts and a frozen smile and does cute things such as bumping into guys on purpose, which shows how brazen (in a cute way!) she is.  She even sabotages the copier because the copier guy is such a hunk!  We can laugh at these goings on, although we don't because they're not funny.

Margaret (Parker Posey) is a the savvy, cynical temp, who does savvy, cynical things, such as "accidentally" hanging up on people she doesn't want to take messages from, dispensing office gossip, and chewing gum.  Boy is she world-weary and wise!  And talk about  a devil-may-care attitude!  She says things like "The smaller the man the bigger the desk" and "If you ever want to make something disappear, just misfile it."  She's a rebel.

And there's a fourth temp too!  I'm not sure what her deal is.  

As far as the movie itself, it consists of a series of painfully long scenes where nothing happens.  This is a world where annoying music plays over the PA system of the building and the executives are neurotic, mumbling morons.  Temps are sneered at, mistrusted, and blatantly mocked to their faces.  There's a message here, I'm sure, but it's far too subtle for me to figure out.

We also meet a mailroom worker, the type of character who's obsessive interest in one of the temps is amusing and endearing in the movies but would be horribly troubling and creepy in real life.  A serial killer, really.  Luckily, he does nothing in the film but walk by occasionally.

There is a scene where people watch clocks.

After Iris's first day, the four temps go to a bar for happy hour, which is an incredibly long scene, longer than the combined wedding scenes from Godfather and The Deer Hunter.  During this scene, Margaret steals some shot-glasses, Iris acquires a little green plastic monkey that they put on the rims of tropical drinks, and Paula is hit on by a guy.  As it turns out, the guy has hit on one of the other temps at a different time in the past, and all that makes him a sleazy jerk.  They are so repulsed his his disgusting habit of hitting on women that they leave the bar, bringing along Paula, you know, the one who SABOTAGES COPIERS TO HIT ON THE COPIER GUY AND BUMPS INTO GUYS ON PURPOSE TO FEEL THEM.  I guess this must be different somehow.

They all go to a palm-reader and giggle about something.  Iris is told by the palm reader to make her mark and not be so shy.

We soon learn shyness is not Iris's only problem, she's also complete moron.  She makes cupcakes for her friends, and brings them on the bus on a plate. Yes, on a plate.  No saran wrap or Tupperware, just a plate.  Then she drops some of them when someone bumps into her. To keep us caught up with the quickly-moving plot, Iris also supplies useful voice-overs, such as "I was fitting in.  We were friends"  over shots of her fitting in and being friends.  Thanks!

Iris's idiocy apparently runs in the family, for her father wants her to be a salesperson, despite the fact that she is a obviously a timid social misfit.  She lies to her father, who is played by the guy who always plays the gruff father in movies, such as Breaking Away and Sixteen Candles, about pursuing an interview with a sales firm.  This is all setting us up for a conflict later in the movie, so much later, in fact, that it does not appear in the film.

Meanwhile, nothing else is going on, anywhere.

A new girl arrives, and it turns out she has been given a permanent position as assistant to the executive that Margaret was working for.  Margaret is bitter and angry because she feels that she deserved the job, not the new girl, who appears to be even more timid and frumpy than Iris, actually jumping away from people and staring at the floor.  Soon after, the cash from the coffee fund is stolen, and Iris has a lengthy voice over, leading us to believe that this is going to be the plot of the rest of the movie, which it turns out, sadly, is true.

There is a scene featuring clocks, which are watched.

In case we have not noticed Margaret's habit of stealing things, talking about stealing things, or exhibiting rebellious behavior, we are treated to about two hours more of it.  When Iris loses her time card, Margaret opens the punch clock, adjusts it, and stamps a new one.  She puts an "on sale" tag on something that is not on sale so Iris can afford it, and we all marvel at her street-smarts and brash ingenuity, while at the same time wondering just where this loose-cannon of a temp draws the line...

The powers-that-be hold a meeting to discuss the office thefts, and nothing interesting happens, except that... nope, nothing interesting happens.  Shortly thereafter, the temps go shopping.  They look at clothing, perfume and lipstick in a scene that makes me remember going shopping with my girlfriend in high school, and I think sadly of the hours of my life I will never get back again, hours spent watching girls shop, and the hours I am currently losing forever watching girls shop.

Later, Iris makes a list of items that have been stolen from the office, and reflects on them, saying in voice-over: "What seems ordinary to one person is another's treasure."  I reflect on this by scratching myself in a personal place and having a beer.

There is a scene, where there is a clock, but no one is watching it.   No, just kidding.  They watch it.

Some more stuff happens as the temps band together, helping out a neurotic executive while saying mean things about the new girl.  Paula suddenly becomes interesting and funny, but it turns out it's because I have turned off the movie to watch Friends.  Turning the movie back on, I am treated to a scene where the temps giggle and make small talk.  Margaret starts becoming more bitter and erratic, drinking at work and complaining until I want to kill her, and revealing that her family is disappointed in her. 

Someone they work for dies of a heart-attack, but I don't know who.  Paula thinks she's pregnant but she's not.  Some other things almost happen, but not only do they not happen, they do not happen slowly.

Under close scrutiny from the office, the temps begin to crack, fighting amongst themselves as the office thefts continue.  Margaret is blamed for it, and it turns out that, despite all her stealing, talking about stealing, and general shenanigans, she is innocent.  The true culprit is the new girl, as Iris finds out when she sees the new girl steal a CLOCK.  I guess this is irony or something.  Margaret is fired,  and none of her friends do anything about it, but Iris later gets her a recommendation.  Then things pick up briefly as the credits roll. 

Thoughts:  Wow.  This movie was incredibly boring.  There were a few nuggets of truth here and there; someone points out that "They never really explain anything to you when you're a temp.  They figure you're not going to be around long enough." This is true, but it hardly justifies a movie that seemed to, in lieu of having an actual script, simply follow the four actresses around with a camera. 

Scoring: What is the sound of one man napping?  I'd rate watching an actual clock above watching this movie.

Back  /  Home