By DANIEL M. KIMMEL
Indie Gen-X comedy plays like “Return of the Secaucus Seven” for the end of the century as a group of friends in their late 20s have to decide if it’s time to figure out what they want to be when they grow up. They’re all “temps,” working as consultants, receptionists, and even, in one instance, as a gynecological model. Dead-on take of a generation at the crossroads should be good for some coin… Maria Burton, who has a small role as a would-be poet, directed. Gabrielle Burton, who also wrote the screenplay, stars as Ally, while another sister, Ursula Burton, plays Jane, the friend who goes from gynecological model to stripper to business entrepreneur.
Ally is doing temp work because she really wants to be a filmmaker. She’s working on a documentary on temp workers, which gives her an excuse to film her friends… Another friend (Tim Bohn) is a lawyer who takes secretarial jobs so that he can work on a novel, but that’s just an excuse to avoid having any sort of real job at all. Georgia (Katrina Stevens) is a computer programmer who has to deal with her employer’s lecherousnous as well as his refusal to take her seriously beyond her technical expertise.
The problem for all these characters is that they’ve had so many choices in their lives that they’ve become paralyzed.
Ally finally decides to take a shot by interning at a Vermont film festival, which means no pay for overseeing the parking lot. But she meets a studio executive who, for personal reasons, decides to take her under his wing. So by risking failure, she is finally able to succeed.
Young cast is energetic, and pic’s rough edges boost its realistic feel. Casting of Seymour Cassel as the avuncular studio exec is a real plus, underling how the influence of a well-meaning mentor can make all the difference.
Screenplay serves up some eccentric touches, like a subway mugging which ends with the victim sharing her sandwich with her assailant. Tech credits are solidly professional, with good use made of Boston locations.
TEMPS, FRIENDS WITH A TWIST
By MARIA MAKREDES
IMMAGINE MAGAZINE (December 1999)
Alright I admit it… I belong to the infamous generation labelled “X”, so when I heard that Maria Burton of Five Sisters Production Company directed a film about our struggles to commit to work and relationships, I had a vested interest. As my friend and I settled into our seats, though, I wondered if this full-length comedy premiering at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts would reach beyond the surface of trendy hairdos and cut-off tops to see who we really are and what really moves us. The answer- a qualified “yes”.
The film follows five twenty-somethings- Ally, the protagonist and budding dilmmaker; her boyfriend Ben, a white-collar office worker; Jane, who changes jobs faster than you can blink; Georgia, a computer/industrial engineer/designer type; and Jonah, the former lawyer and would-be writer. Already this group seemed saltier than “Ross” and “Rachel”, so they garnered my attention. Besides, I loved the fact that the entire film was shot in Boston, and couldn’t help smiling at the sight of my favorite North End restaurants and Downtown Crossing shopping haunts on screen. Plus, what’s not to admire about the spunk of the young, multi-talented Burton sisters whose family’s creative gene pool not only spawned the film’s director, but also its scriptwriter and several of its actors?
So we begin with Ally, who strikes the much-resounded lament in the arts of not being able to pay the rent. Why? Because she hasn’t quite launched her fimmaking career, and often needs prodding by her beau to take the initiative in fullfilling her dreams. Can’t she treat filming like a “regular” job, leap out of bed in the morning, and get going, Ben asks? Ah, but we Gen X-ers understand! She thinks she really wants it but is afraid. What if she doesn’t succeed, or what if it’s not in the end what it promised to be? And then, of course, there is the temp work she must do to support her art. Still, throughout the movie, she videotapes meetings with her friends and, often to their annoyance, captures every word of their conversations and confessions to really “show” what matters to them in her film- this film “Temps”.
And why is her professional foundering hampering her longstanding relationship with Ben? Ben tires of goading Ally- he wants her to “make up her mind” on all fronts- including deciding to move in with him. She hesitates to do so for a long time, but, somewhat dissapointingly, not for any moral reason, rather solely out of a need to feel secure in her own path (I suppose this is an improvement on “Friends”, where serious personal goals wouldn’t really enter the question). Ben makes this perfectly clear when he exclaims that they are 28 and “old enough” to live together, and even notes that their parents wouldn’t object- at least the Burtons hit the nail on the head with the socail norms of the moment. Enter Angela, the slick, driven, blonde office vamp/exec a la Heather Loklear whose bulldozer-like aggression earns her a couple of dates, but alas, no kiss, for Ben loves Ally! Angela’s dreadfully disappointed to not have succeeded at something, and we are relieved that some standards of faithfulness still stand! Had this actually been “Melrose Place”, the scene surely would have ended in bed.
Other contemporary themes come into play via Jonah, whose office “temp” assignments are like walking through a house of distorted mirrors full of contradictions and hypocrisy. Filing is definitely not the job of a lifetime, but right now, all Jonah knows is that it’s not the empty practice of law. And by the way, he’s gay, and hasn’t fully embraced his identity. Running home for a while could solve the problem, he thinks. Writing novels and short stories could be his calling, but can he even focus long enough to begin? The “joys” of Generation X-hood are maybe nowhere more apparent than in his character, though the acting was a bit flat.
Jane is a caricature of the I’m-only-out-for-money type. She’ll sell out for any price. Her ultimate job? Working in a store peddling sex paraphanelia. Her perfect foil is Georgia, the golden-haired, smart idealist who is constantly trying to have her ideas taken seriously by her older, harassing boss, who doesn’t understand her insistence on integrity. Georgia has personal issues, too, of course- she can’t see to get her inter-racial relationship with a waiter off the ground until she lets go of the memory of a past love who we never see but know pains her. That is, until she invites that first kiss.
The movie has some really funny moments. Ben takes a pleaurable poke at “pc-ness”, questioning how one can be politically correct 24/7 when a friend balks at lamb as the dinner entree. And the irony is all there when the scene switches abruptly from Jane dancing in a strip club to Ally stomping her feet to fend off frostbite as a suffering parking attendent at a winter film festival. This is not to mention Ally’s constant ploy to steal toilet paper from every public bathroom in town- I knew this bore mentioning in my review when my friend said the thought of swiping a roll or two once crossed her mind! The same friend loved the Shakespearean bard/ Greek chorus type character of the cafe poet played by one of the Burton sisters. Her crazy diatribes about life were absurdly funny- at least my friend thought so.
So, “Friends” grew up a little bit with “Temps”, which the Burton sisters would like to parlay into a television show. I do want to see the next Five Sisters film entitled “Manna From Heaven”, but I’m still waiting for the quintessential true-to-life Generation X film to come out. It’ll happen, I’m sure, when Jennifer Aniston and I are both about 50.
By CHRIS COOKE
NEW ENGLAND FILM
As a member of the so-called Generation X, I have always been more than a little wary of journalistic and artistic attempts at portraying the lives of my peers. So I approached “Temps” with a critical eye, not expecting to enjoy it much.
“Temps” a film by Five Sisters Productions (director Maria Burton, screenwriter Gabrielle Burton, and sisters Jennifer, Ursula, and Charity) is about a handful of late 20-somethings in Boston who struggle to find their own way in the world, somewhere between the conventional, family-and work-centered lives of their parents and their own, most likely futile dreams of artistic success.
Daunted by the near certainty of making less money than their parents and disillusioned by the mercenary indifference of today’s corporate workplace, they are both spoiled and cursed by their vast potential and freedom, obsessed yet inhibited by their desire to achieve greatness in the face of their inevitably ordinary lives.
We’ve heard all this before, of course, but the film has an engaging sincerity to it, and I found myself identifying with and liking the characters, charmed by the film’s low-key and pleasant approach to a topic that is often morosely overblown, tainted by gratuitous moping.
The film centers around Ally (Gabrielle Burton), who temps to support her tenuous career in film. “I’m an aspiring filmmaker,” she tells us—then adds, as if to convince herself as much as us, “No. I’m a filmmaker.” Her current project is (surprise, surprise) a documentary about disillusioned Gen Xers who work temp jobs. “Temps” you see contains a film-within-a-film, a device that in some hands could be merely clever but here seems natural, an honest way for these characters to analyze themselves and speak openly about their concerns. Much of the material for Ally’s film comes from her friends, and she records their conversations at every opportunity, probing their worries for all their worth. Jonah (Tim Bohn) has quit his law career to work as a temp by day and write his novel by night, despite the fact that he’s never even finished a story. Jane (Ursula Burton) shuffles from job to job, finding work wherever she can, be it in the laundry room of a motel or as a gynecological model. And Georgia (Katrina Stevens) is a software designer who is frustrated by her employer’s profit-minded intentions for the technology she developed for educational software, not to mention his inappropriate inclination for hugs.
The foil for all these maladjusted souls is Ally’s boyfriend Ben (Robert Pemberton), who holds a stable, well paid, “real” job and knows what he wants: a career and a family. He wants to start this family with Ally, but he’s not sure he wants to wait around for her. Unable to see why these friends of his don’t give up their hopeless attempts at art and get on with their lives, he gives Ally an ultimatum: move in with him, and thus begin the transition from aspiring artist to full time worker, wife, and parent, or else. When Ally gets a job (unpaid, of course) at the Sunscreen Film Festival, she feels it is her last chance at keeping both her relationship and her dreams of a professional film career alive.
I have yet to see a GenX movie that I could accurately describe as gripping (maybe, though, this is only form reflecting content—how compelling can the aimless, uncertain, ordinary story of an aimless, uncertain, ordinary young adult be?), and “Temps” is no exception. Perhaps the film-within-a-film device is a bit of a crutch, used at times to explain the character’s concerns rather than evoke them through development of the plot. So while not a powerhouse, “Temps” is certainly a compassionate and quite likeable film. As is probably evident it is not without a touch of humor (most notably a laughably bad poet, played by director Maria), and as it progresses playfully and casually towards it’s end, it arrives at some essential, true-to-life conclusions. “Temps,” rather than wallowing in its own despair, gives the impression that, yes, these characters can—with a little adjustment, perhaps—make something meaningful of their lives.