by Brian McKay
In fact, the tunnel in question (which connects the town of Haiku, Hawaii, with another town on the other side of a mountain) really has nothing to do with the movie whatsoever. The enigmatic and catchy title aside, "Haiku Tunnel" is a cubicle comedy ala "Office Space" about a slacker temp who manages to go "perm" at a law firm and keep his job, despite his numerous and even intentional fuck-ups."Haiku Tunnel" is a semi-autobiographal story of writer/director/"star" Josh Kornbluth, who used his temp-worker days as fodder for a comedy monologue that evolved into this film. Josh is by no means an attractive man, and he isn't even much of an actor (though he seems like a pretty decent writer/director). He seems a little too eager in the first five minutes, and you will either start to warm up to him, or decide he's a total goofball and lose interest. I was glad I did the former, because after the initial awkwardness, and despite Josh's lack of any real thespian talent, the film really is quite funny. Josh's mediocre acting abilities are made up for by his own enthusiasm, as well as a talented supporting cast of local San Francisco actors, a great cameo by Harry Shearer, and some pretty clever writing and directing.
"No Japanese poetry or actual tunnels were used in the making of this film."
Josh is a 30-something temp worker. He lives in a slovenly, cluttered, converted-garage apartment in the Mission District of San Francisco (And really, as high as rents are in this fucking town, that's about the only place a temp could afford to live besides a dumpster). He has no apparent ambition to do anything beyond temping because he likes the "non-commital" nature of it. Half of the film is related in monolouge form, as he gives us the behind-the-scenes view of the big-city office culture.
Josh wanders through this culture as a complete anomaly. His hair is straggly and unkempt. His clothes are anything but business attire (the man wears the loudest, brightest shirts you've ever seen. They don't just come with batteries, they take Sears Die-Hards). As temps go, he is competent at his job -until he is offered a chance to go "perm" after impressing his new boss, attorney Bob Shelby (Warren Keith) on the first day. From the moment he goes perm, his productivity goes into the toilet. He slacks off, being distracted by every little thing. He spends hours working on his novel instead of typing dictation. Quite succinctly, he keeps fucking up, has a lucid awareness that he is fucking up, and yet, when offered a chance to extricate himself from his fucked-up situation - yes folks, that's right, he fucks up AGAIN!
Of course, it's all because he is trying to sabotage himself due to his fears of being shackled to a perm position. He turns to his 3 fellow secretaries for support. They are 1)a stereotypical gay guy, Clifford (Brian Thorstenson), 2)Mindy, a bitter 35 year old divorcee' whose bitterness is buried beneath her perky exterior (Amy Resnick), and 3)DaVonne (June Lomena) a very cute black girl with a big chip on her shoulder who shoots down Josh's pathetic attempts at asking her out. And even when they go out of their way to help him - he fucks it up AGAIN! Meanwhile, he goes around exuding some kind of odd, nebbish charm, like a west-coast version of George Costanza from "Seinfeld". He even manages to get sexy hotshot attorney Julie Faustino (Sarah Overman) into bed, under the pretext that she thinks he is a hotshot attorney himself (a minor misconception he does nothing to dissuade her from). In addition, he leaves late-night, hours-long phone messages for head secretary Marlina D'amore (Helen Shumaker), as a form of cheap psychotherapy.
Everyone in the supporting cast turns in great performances, surprisingly good, in fact, considering that they are mostly unknowns with little film experience. It's not a perfect film, and some of the bits do fall flat, but overall it is funny and well-paced.Kornbluth, whith his brother Jacob as co-director, has crafted a pretty decent freshman film here. While it can be argued that Josh has no real leading-man charisma (like Ron Livingston did in "Office Space") and he is not much of an actor, this is based on his experiences and he does deliver the material with conviction, upping his credibility. It's obvious that this picture is his baby, and ultimately, who could really play someone like "Josh Kornbluth" better than Josh Kornbluth?
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originally posted: 03/04/02 09:32:33