Sunday, June 15, 2008

Waydowntown (2000)

One thing I do miss is the Sundance Film Festival. We used to go every year when we lived in Salt Lake, and even made the trek down there the first couple of years after moving to Idaho. Now we’ve got the kid, and blah, blah, blah, excuses, excuses. I still love a good independent film, though. If you don’t know what I mean by “independent,” it means movies made outside the film studio system, generally on a low budget. “Clerks” is a classic, independent film. Kevin Smith made it for peanuts, using friends and family as actors and crew when possible. Sometimes the Sundance Festival will have movies that feature some pretty big-name actors, making you wonder what the movie is doing in an “independent film” festival. Those movies usually make up for the big stars by shooting on really grainy digital video or by showing some gay sex.

“Waydowntown” is more the classic type of independent film, with actors I’ve never seen, sketchy production values, and loads of dialog (which is cheaper to shoot than action.) It’s set in the Canadian city of Calgary, where city designers have installed tunnels and overhead walkways connecting most of the downtown buildings. That means you can go from home to work to a restaurant and back without ever going outside. Brilliant! Get yourself a Nintendo Wii, and you could live a very full life without breathing fresh air ever again!

“Waydowntown” is about a foursome of young office workers who try to do just that, wagering a month’s salary on who can stay inside the longest. The story is set on Day 24, when the rough edges are really starting to show. The movie truly captures the soul-sucking nature of working in an office building. The comedic tone is a bit darker than “Office Space,” and “Waydowntown” is by no means the classic that “Office Space” is, but it’s still a nice ode to throwing off the shackles of cubicle bondage.

The scary thing about “Waydowntown” is that it might be our future. As cities get bigger and more congested, the Calgary system of enclosed walkways connecting everything might become the standard. Cities might become like airports, with security checkpoints to pass through, and once you’re inside, you’re INSIDE. I wonder what effect that will have on people. Will we need those little soundproof booths to step into and scream at the top of our lungs? What breed of hominids will evolve in such an ant farm? I believe I’d rather go out a 20th story window than find out.

4 stars

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