Waydowntown Movie Review

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A tremendously inventive, ironically relevant big-city-office dark comedy, the sardonic but whimsical "waydowntown" is a sign of our times in workaholic Western society. About a quartet of friendly office rivals who all live and work in an interconnected, high-rise office-mall-apartment complex, the movie begins a few weeks into a bet they've made to see who can stay sane the longest without setting foot outside -- and every one of them is about to crack.

Even with a month's salary at stake and the only the mall to provide amenities like food (and more importantly coffee), none of these young drones thought the others would last this long. Arrogant, insolent hipster Tom (Fab Filippo) has been getting through the days by picking on a suicidal nebbish cubicle mate (Don McKellar), flirting with mall shoppers, visiting his car in the parking garage to get stoned and hallucinating (?) an amateur superhero flying around downtown Calgary, where the film takes place.

Professionally ambitious but trod-upon Sandra (Marya Delver) has been assigned to keep an eye on her elderly kleptomaniac boss, which keeps her harried, high-strung and too busy in the mall to get any work done. Randy (Tobias Godson) escapes ennui by inventing animal nicknames for other worker-resident denizens, and Curt (Gordon Currie) is a cad who spends his time trying to get into the pants of an emotionally fragile co-worker.

But being a ruthlessly competitive, egocentric bunch, by this point in the bet much of their energy is going toward psyching each other out to just get it over with -- and the head games quickly become amusingly ugly.

Written and directed by creative, cutting-edge Canadian filmmaker Gary Burns ("The Suburbanators," "Mondo Canuck"), the energetic, quick-cut, only semi-linear story seems to take place over the course of one extended lunch hour. But as if to emphasize the monotony of their office drone lives, the characters' clothes change colors from scene to scene to scene while their outfits remain the same. Does it take really place on one day, or is it that every single day as an anonymous corporate pawn is just like all the others?

Sardonically funny, charismatic, imaginatively cool and kinetic, the film's modernistic mood is reminiscent of "Trainspotting," "Run Lola Run," "Office Space" and "Being John Malkovich." And it ranks right along with those films as a defining entry in the emerging school of smart, avant garde cinema that may have been born of music video, but has creatively matured and surpassed its MTV origins thanks to young directors' unbridled magic-carpet minds.

Little-seen outside of Canada, where it took the top prize at last year's Toronto Film Festival, "waydowntown" is well worth going out of your way to see if it comes to your city (distributor Lot47 Films is doing a terrible job with the spotty US release schedule). Otherwise, keep your eyes peeled for its video release (a date has yet to be set).

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Waydowntown Rating

" Good "

Rating: Unrated, NY: Friday, January 25, 2002<br> Various 2002 play dates in other markets

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