Dave White
Price Check Review

Dave's Rating:

3.0

Work Is a Four-Letter Word

Typecasting is tough for an actor. Clearly, working regularly probably smoothes away the worst of that career discontent, but when your screen persona is the kind that builds cult followings and you're known for a certain set of traits, you have to find a way to make peace with the box that casting directors build for you or you'll just frustrate yourself trying to claw your way out. And if you're lucky, every once in a while you get to leap in a new direction, like Parker Posey managed in 2007's acclaimed, downbeat drama, Broken English, or in her recent, bracing guest arc on FX's Louie.

But the cultists know what they like and why, so this recent indie starring the woman formerly (and reductively) known as the Indie Queen delivers it. Here Posey is an aggressive, mercurial boss at the Long Island branch of a discount grocery chain's pricing and marketing department. She suffers no interruptions, laughs at her own jokes, donut-shames snacking employees, bulldozes her way through office life and gets away with it in the name of productivity and sales, even hijacking her right hand man (Eric Mabius) away from his family for long hours and, eventually, an extra-marital affair. You don't want to work for her.

It's not just Posey that's familiar. The work-is-hell genre is blowing up in film and on TV and already has its own cliches, thanks to now-well-known ingredients from Office Space, The Devil Wears Prada, The Office and Mad Men. This time around it feels like Posey's own mouthy character from 1997's Clockwatchers decided to get with the program and get the money by beating everyone else at their own game and the take-everyone-prisoner atmosphere resembles, at least in spirit, a white-ish collar take on this year's brutal fast-food-thriller Compliance, minus the sexual assault. Sort of.

It never suffers a failure of nerve or abdicates its responsibility as critique on corporate culture -- the no-resolution resolution, in which everyone gets about a fifth of what they actually wanted from life, is appropriately sour -- but it does suffer a failure of presentation, an abrupt halt. The oh-well-that's-life details of the last few moments feel tacked on and rushed, as if budget constraints had caused downsizing in the film itself. But pleasures remain: Posey whipping out her impeccable comic timing, her fiery, complicated presence as a person you'd hate in real life but love to watch shriek her way toward an ugly victory, the stuff she does best, is never unwelcome. The Indie Queen is still on her throne. Long may she reign.

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