REVIEW: Waydowntown [2000]

“Sadly I’m Bradley”

Waydowntown is Calgary, Alberta’s Gary Burns’ satiric look on the office workplace. While a film like Mike Judge’s Office Space goes for the laughs and absurdity of the daily grind, Burns gives us something more palpable with his take. We are looking in on a group of corporate ants roaming through their cage, seemingly free in their small existences. This film is a sociology project showing relationships between people and how their environments affect not only themselves, but also those they interact with. However, it is a cynical, comedic look on a workday of four young adults trying to get through another eight hours of essentially the same activities they completed each day previous.

Our story is centered on a bet between the four main characters. In Calgary, there is a cityscape that was built to connect together. With enclosed walkways and tunnels, each mall, office complex, and apartment building is linked so that one could conceivably go through his/her life never going outdoors. Because of this, our protagonists have each bet a month’s salary to see who can stay inside the longest. We enter into the story on day 24, where each lets the pressure finally crack through. Between sexual repression, the breathing of recirculated air from the vents over and over again, and the utter monotony of their jobs, each goes a little bit nuts as they try to drive forward to win the prize.

Fab Filippo plays our lead Tom. He smokes a joint before work to cut the edge off of his straying mind and heads up to his desk. The stress has caused him to see things of late that just aren’t there. Floating through the promenades he tries to get under the skin of his follow bet takers by playing to their weaknesses. Filippo plays the role nicely as he has the charisma of the kind of guy everyone likes to hang with, but always gets a jab in and never misses the opportunity to belittle someone. He narrates the story with well-written voiceover observations about superheroes taking their little connected city into the sky and on whether the dead-end life he is leading has made him cold and ambivalent to the world he cohabits with humanity. Marya Delver delivers as the lone female bet taker whose throat slowly closes subconsciously as the day progresses from the “dirty” air that keeps going through her. Among many hilarious moments are her spinning the front doors fast to get the influx of “pure” air into her system and her use of a magazine perfume sample to keep her from passing out. Also, giving a pitch-perfect performance is Don McKellar as Bradley. His droning voice and fed-up with life attitude oozes out as he has finally snapped, after two decades of the same work everyday. The deadpan expressions are great as he starts to staple words of encouragement to his chest.

Besides these quirky characters and their activities of the day, which we follow for the duration, we are shown funny vignettes on society. For example, there is the discussion on the unwritten rule of getting out of another person’s way when walking towards each other. The security guard realizes that these men in suits just don’t abide by the rules and continue walking no matter the obstacle. He finally decides to hold his ground and gets knocked over for the trouble by a straight-faced extra oblivious to the other people around him. Waydowntown is a world of self-absorbed drones who’ve become lifeless and uncaring by a society which has confined them to created controllable order. Watching the cast of eccentrics as they try and break through the sameness is fun intelligent humor. A blend of socially conscious commentary and laugh-out-loud humor, Gary Burns has created a great film to help office workers everywhere crack a smile.

Waydowntown 9/10 | ★ ★ ★ ½


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