Movie Review: Clockwatchers (1997)

Release Date: June 12, 1997
Director: Jill Sprecher
Production Company: Goldcrest Films

I watched this movie on a whim, and found a hidden gem! Clockwatchers is part of the small but significant genre of Office Work is Hell films along with Nine to Five, Office Space, and Waydowntown. This movie focuses particularly on the tedious and thankless work of temps, something that resonates with me because I was working a variety of temp jobs not too long after this movie was released.

Toni Collette plays Iris, a shy woman who takes a temp job to support herself while avoiding her father’s effort to pressure her into following him into sales work.  An experienced and opinionated fellow temp, Margaret (the brilliant Parker Posey) takes Iris under her wing.  She soon bonds with Margaret and two other temp workers, the aspiring actor Paula (Lisa Kudrow) and the woman planning a marriage to a clearly undeserving man, Jane (Alanna Ubach).

Tension begins to ramp up as the office is struck by a series of thefts.  Management suspects that the temps are responsible but Margaret accuses the new executive assistant Cleo (Helen Fitzgerald).  While much of the movie is a comedy, the latter part feels to use almost horror movie tropes as the surveillance increases and the four temps camaraderie begins to crumble.

This is a well-acted piece by all four of the leads, especially Collete and Posey who feel like office workers I’ve known.  As an aside, everyone’s hair looked fabulous in this movie so kudos to the stylist.  I also liked the use of the mostly diegetic soundtrack of Muzak pumped into the office to “increase productivity.”  This movie has a lot to say of how the corporate world dehumanizes people and that the alternatives (full-time work, acting, marriage, et al) are not that much better. It’s also great to have this story from the women’s perspective with a woman director, screenwriters, and men only in minor roles.

This is an extremely well-done and resonant film that’s worth checking out if you are like me and missed it back in the 90s.

Rating: ****1/2