If you've ever been a temporary worker, then you know: The arrangement can feel like a no-expenses-paid trip through the seventh circle of hell, but the stories you collect make for fantastic party conversation. (My own personal temp inferno: spending three scorching summer days bending plastic covers for a David Bowie boxed set in a factory with no AC.) After a couple of years working as a temporary legal secretary in San Francisco, aspiring novelist Joshua Kornbluth collected enough stories for a hundred parties. He's thrown some of them together into Haiku Tunnel, a low-budget, off-the-wall indie feature he wrote, co-directed and stars in. Unlike Mike Judge's Office Space, which took aim at the same corporate target a few years back, the movie doesn't seem forced or stupid when it traipses into sober unreality.
With his sad-sack physique, frizzed-out 'do and cherubic grin, Kornbluth has the look of a textbook temp. He also has a knack for channeling the spirit of Woody Allen and David Sedaris as Josh, a likable nebbish in patchwork-pattern shirts. His eyes and smile convey his bemusement at the vagaries of modern office life.
Josh ends up at a firm named Schuyler & Mitchell, and the dreaded call of full-time isn't long in coming. "What do you say, Josh? Do you want to go...perm?" purrs the firm's head secretary, in a cross between a come-on and a dare. They reel him in with an offer he simply can't refuse ("the firm will pay for your psychotherapy!"), but Josh seems unable to resist the karmic freedom that temping offers him. In the closest thing to a plot, he spends the rest of the film sabotaging his full-time status. After his control-freak boss gives him 17 letters "that have to go out today," he's almost psychotic in his avoidance of mailing them.
Haiku Tunnel began life as a monologue that Kornbluth performed on the underground stages in San Fran, and its theatrical roots are obvious. The switch to film requires a clumsy introduction in which Josh explains that he's playing a fictional legal secretary named Josh who lives in "San Franclisco." On the plus side, Kornbluth evidently enjoys making use of the occasional sight gag and allowing other actors to lend a little oomph to his dopey anecdotes. Haiku Tunnel offers insight into our warring desires to both belong at the office and escape from it.