Josh Kornbluth

"Haiku Tunnel" is a sharply written comedy on the dispiriting world of the lower-level corporate drone. While it plays more like TV sketch-comedy shtick than film material, this modest production remains entertaining thanks to its winning sense of folly, which could spell a measure of theatrical biz before employment in the small-screen arena.

A sharply written comedy on office politics and the dispiriting world of the lower-level corporate drone, “Haiku Tunnel” was adapted from the 1990 monologue of the same name by Josh Kornbluth, who stars and also co-directed with his brother Jacob. While it plays more like stage or TV sketch-comedy shtick than film material, this modest, visually unimposing production remains entertaining thanks to its ironic observations and winning sense of folly, which could spell a measure of theatrical biz for the Sony Pictures Classics pickup before more gainful employment in the small-screen arena.

The Kornbluth brothers and co-scripter John Bellucci opened up the one-man vehicle into a multi-character narrative by workshopping the original monologue at San Francisco’s Z Space Studio, where the actors and audience responses contributed to the development of each character.

Directly addressing the camera in an opening spiel in which he stresses that the events being portrayed are entirely fictional, Josh Kornbluth plays a temporary office worker called, for the sake of convenience, “Josh Kornbluth.” An aspiring novelist, he muses on the arcane world of the temp, with its menagerie of alluring but standoffish secretaries and colorless lawyers. Despite being tipped off by a predecessor that his new boss Bob Shelby (Warren Keith) is pure evil, Josh accepts an offer to “go perm” with the company.

The change of status prompts an existential crisis, manifested through Josh’s physical inability to mail 17 important letters. Each day finds him concocting increasingly elaborate ploys to postpone the assignment, occupying his time by inputting his novel into the office computer system. When his co-workers — who embraced him as a friend the moment he crossed over from temp to perm — start spurring him into action, Josh is forced for the first time to weigh seriously the merits of part-time responsibility against permanent commitment.

While the generally large performance style betrays the comedy’s origins as a stage piece, characters are incisively drawn and have plenty of original slants. Ably piloted by Kornbluth’s likably manic, slobby eccentricity, the ensemble’s standouts include Helen Shumaker as the imperious head secretary, Brian Thorstenson as an enjoyably stereotypical, gossiping gay colleague and Keith as Josh’s too-trusting boss, given to all-purpose employee directives such as “Settle down, focus and catch up.”

There’s nothing especially cinematic going on, but the functionally shot comedy hits marks that will be familiar to anyone with experience in an office environment. It cleverly milks humor from the orientation process, the attraction of easily pilferable office supplies, Byzantine computer systems and those unforthcoming keepers of their secrets, the systems help-desk technicians, and the humiliation and envy of being exposed to a senior executive’s travel expenses.

Haiku Tunnel

Production

A Sony Pictures Classics release of a Pandemonium production. Produced by Brian Benson, Jacob Kornbluth, Josh Kornbluth. Co-producer, Nancy Carlin. Executive producer, David R. Fuchs. Co-executive producer, Michael Peyser. Directed by Jacob Kornbluth, Josh Kornbluth. Screenplay, Josh Kornbluth, Jacob Kornbluth, John Bellucci, based on the monologue by Josh Kornbluth, in collaboration with David Ford.

Crew

Camera (FotoKem color), Don Matthew Smith; editor, Robin Lee; music, Marco d'Ambrosio; production designer, Chris Farmer; set decorators, Emilio Aramendia, Melanie Tomlin; costume designer, Chris Aysta; sound (Dolby Digital), Lori Dovi; associate producers, Stephanie Weisman/the Marsh, Doria Summa; assistant director, Colin Michael Kitchens; casting, Nancy Hayes. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (American Spectrum), Jan. 22, 2001. Running time: 90 MIN.

With

"Josh Kornbluth" - Josh Kornbluth
Bob Shelby - Warren Keith
Marlina D'Amore - Helen Shumaker
Mindy - Amy Resnick
Clifford - Brian Thorstenson
DaVonne - June A. Lomena
Julie Faustino - Sarah Overman
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