NoHoIFF16 REVIEW: Admins [2016]

Score: 5/10 | ★ ★

Rating: NR | Runtime: 86 minutes | Release Date: 2016 (USA)
Studio: Culs Films / 19th & Wilson
Director(s): Aaron Goodmiller
Writer(s): Eric Espejo & Korosh Karimi

“I think I deal with more idiots”

The beautiful thing about office inhabitants’ inability to muster up the initiative to learn one iota of technological troubleshooting so as not to prove beholden to an IT department that loathes them is the sheer fact nothing will ever change. While each subsequent generation has a better grasp on what’s happening around them, they’ll remain behind the curve because they refuse to upgrade their knowledge with the latest electronic devices and sophisticated operating systems by choosing to stand still instead. Holdovers from bygone eras continue to risk their bank accounts on phishing scams and idiots hired for crap jobs no one else wants continue ignoring how digital privacy is fluid. Terminology may alter but the environment never does. Unfortunately cinematic interpretations inside this world rarely do either.

To some this is a good thing because they love Office Space and yearn for more in its vein. The problem is that Office Space is seventeen years old. Even Britain’s “The IT Crowd”—a witty update of that mold—is now a decade removed from its inception. Staying relevant isn’t accomplished by merely switching pop culture references to “Game of Thrones” or out-of-touch gags to the “cloud”. We need an evolution of storytelling and purpose too. So while Aaron Goodmiller‘s Admins does a great job reinvigorating Office Space for a 2016 sect, I’m not sure the audience is of the same mindset to consume its 1999 model. Having screenwriters Eric Espejo and Korosh Karimi infuse crassly sexual situations to make it “edgier” doesn’t necessarily help either.

So it’s both good and bad. The good part is that this type of sexist, racist, and bigoted humor plays with the college crowd. Admins could hit with certain demographics as a result even if that demographic isn’t exactly the one populated by twenty to thirty-something office dwellers. On that base level of raunchy comic sensibility it succeeds. The bad is that there’s little added to the conversation. Office douchebags are douchebags, pretty superiors stereotypically use their bodies to advance and manipulate, and the lowly IT folk are left rolling eyes while dealing with it because that’s literally their job. One put upon genius is too lazy and uninterested to excel (Doug Henderson‘s Randy) and the other is neglected, used, and abused (Jay Saunders‘ Dan).

The formula is tried and true—think Clerks in a cubicle right down to the “I shouldn’t even be here” mentality. We love to hate the Randys who never get reprimanded despite being horrible human beings and coworkers just as much as we love relating to the Dans striving for more if only they can keep their feet out of their mouths. It may be a generic blueprint, but the filmmakers make it their own by injecting nuance beyond cutbacks and boredom. They include the additional conflict between FTEs (full-time employees) and Contractors (part-time groups on expiring contracts). Dan’s team is on the bubble of renewal and he’s unsure about their “essentialness”. So when Kathy (Devon Brookshire) approaches with a too-good-to-be-true offer of personal occupational permanence, he jumps.

What follows are skit-like chapters introduced with white text on black in varying degrees of abstract relevance. The length differs between them, but everything occurs during a single day of less work than I’ve ever experienced during ten-plus years of cubicle existence. Some jokes land like poor Freddie (Joe Hansard) and his Nigerian prince while others fall flat such as ad-libbed stream-of-consciousness porn site ramblings. Some jokes that do succeed eventually get watered-down by extensive use (the rape card set-up is presented in an ingenious way to sound like a familiarly harmless concept until someone calls it what it is, but the whole thing devolves out-of-control from there) and others are doubled-down upon like the blatant profiling of two Indian coffee drinkers.

Everything else is hit or miss too. There’s a decently resonate message at the climax about never giving up on yourself and being kind to those that care about you, but also a weird comfort-level in using sexual harassment as a tool to uncover sexual harassment that should have half the characters we meet fired. Budgetary constraints means the acting can prove lacking, but there are a few gems like Saunders, Brookshire, and Henderson (think T.J. Miller) who deliver natural performances in the roles given. This financial status doesn’t affect the set too much, however, as the location’s foggy glass doors and homogenized feel lends itself well to the minimal camera movements and modern dystopia aesthetic. Credit Goodmiller and his production team for getting this look right.

While saying I’d have liked it better if the sexual harassment jokes weren’t prevalent enough to be more condoning of the acts than satirical makes me look like a square and probably will give the audience Admins targets joy, it’s true. I enjoyed the homage to Clerks‘ Dante, Office Space‘s TPS reports, and “The IT Crowd’s” asinine tech support requests as well as the power afforded to these contractors at the detriment of those with actual job security, but I feel there was room to really hit upon the zeitgeist of office life rather than tell another variation of an R-rated buddy comedy that just happens to take place in an office. I laughed my fair share, but never stopped wanting more of a lasting impact.

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