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Haiku Tunnel

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Josh Kornbluth hopes he doesn't share the fate of George Costanza's fiancee.

© 2001, Sony Pictures Classics
All Rights Reserved

Anyone who has experienced the degradation and diminished self-worth of being a temp employee will share common horror stories involving this ever-increasing problem in the American workforce. Low wages, no medical insurance, kissing ass to the boss to become "perm," all while the permanent employees treat you like some disease-ridden pariah.

"Haiku Tunnel" (IMDb listing), written by star Josh Kornbluth and John Belluci, and directed by Josh and Jacob Kornbluth, centers on the life of one such temp employee. Josh is a proud underachiever who pays the bills (barely) by being a professional temp. He's a short, chubby, balding, bespectacled little man with poor motivation, bad taste in shirts, and even worse hygiene. Josh lives in a shitty part of town, leaves his apartment looking like a bomb exploded in it, and never seems to wake up on time to get to work. However, there is one thing that separates him from being confused with a prime suspect for workplace violence, and that is his love for the art of writing. It is this one creative outlet that allows Josh to live his life in such disarray and still have a purpose to carry on in the cubicle-ridden temping rat-race. During the day, he suffers endless inanity and disrespect. At night he feverishly types chapter after chapter of his beloved novel.

One day Josh gets a call from his temp agency, telling him he has a new assignment in yet another corporate law office, working as a secretary. Upon starting the new position, Josh implements his traditional first-day facade of drive and ambition. Everything seems to go smoothly and predictably. Josh does so well the first day, however, that he defeats his own purpose of remaining a temp indefinitely. Bob the lawyer (Warren Keith) wants to hire him full-time. Josh is appalled. Will he actually have to apply himself, and become a "good" secretary?

Josh's self-defeating behavior is funny at times, but it really starts to get annoying. A major plotpoint involves Josh's refusal to do a very easy, yet important task, such as mailing letters. It becomes exasperating as the movie progresses and Josh has yet to mail those damned letters.

But maybe that's the point. Josh is confronting an existential crisis. He's abandoning the comfort that comes from his inability to succeed, instead embracing his desire to become a faceless, dispensable cog within the enormous machinery of American corporatism.

Generally I dislike the light-hearted goofiness prevalent in "Haiku Tunnel," but with sorrow and tragedy on all our minds, watching the temp travails of a slacker buffoon is a welcome escape.

Filmfodder Grade: B-

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