Clockwatchers

52 Films Directed by Women 3: Days, Not Weeks

4/52

Doomed forever to be compared to Office Space, the similiarities between Mike Judge's film and Clockwatchers are not as numerous as you may expect.

Their setting and the fact that they deal with the drudgery of office work and the effect that can have on your personal life is where the comparison should end. Office Space was a broad and simple comedy. Clockwatchers is funny, especially in its first half, but in the pursuit of something a bit deeper, becomes more thoughtful and appreciably better in its second half.

It was actually fine as it was early on. I really liked how a shy Toni Collette is immediately accepted by a group of friends with no reservations at all, and with no attempt to get her to change or speak up more. I don't doubt for one second that if this was directed by a man, it would be about 90% more likely to feature suspicion and bitchy comments before they 'accepted' her. Not here. Just a bunch of nice women accepting a similarly nice woman.

So I guess when Jill Sprecher looks to break that dynamic down in the latter stages of her film, it could be seen as a bit of a shame. That she didn't explore such an unquestioning friendship for longer. But she actually makes her point early on. The pursuit of meaning in an oppressively meaningless environment is what she turns her fire on, and creates a second half which is almost eerie in the atmosphere that comes about.

Tension rising over a spate of petty thefts brings an underlying sadness of all the friends to the surface, and their group splinters with barely a whimper. That there is no reconciliation between the four is perhaps Sprecher's way of saying that little good ultimately comes of working in such an environment, where stationery and hemlines are micro-managed.

We don't even see anyone other than Collette out of the group after a certain point. They are forgotten about by all but one person, who pulls off a lovely deed near the end that made me audibly "Aww!" It's a nice and subtle little note to end an overall subtle piece of office satire on, and one with far more depth and meaning than the film it's mostly associated with.

Steve G liked this review