Back Add a Comment Share:
Facebook Button
The early 1990s were a tough time for corporate America and for male executives in particular. Faced with the worst economic squeeze since the Great Depression, the predatory instincts of seemingly invulnerable Japanese corporations and the expanding role of women in the workplace as an ongoing concern, the brittle male ego took quite a battering. Encompassing films like Disclosure and Rising Sun, the male American ‘Yuppie In Peril’ thriller subgenre also plays host to The Temp, a largely forgotten 1993 vehicle for Timothy Hutton.

Temp, The
Peter Derns (Hutton) is gradually piecing back together the fractured pieces of his life. With his mental well-being no longer a concern at the Mrs. Appleby Cookie company where he works, Peter seeks to be reconciled with his estranged wife (Maura Tierney) and son while taking care that climbing the corporate ladder doesn’t consume him so as to endanger his sanity once again.

In need of rescuing a late report with his trusted deputy away tending to his family, Peter is remarkably relieved to find shapely secretary Kris Bolin (Lara Flynn Boyle) a superb stand in. Not content with securing a ship-shape working environment, Kris comes up with a marketing strategy that might just save Peter’s job in the face of an attempted take-over of the cookie company by a New York based consortium.

All would seem to be going well, including Peter’s attempts to win back his wife, until his returning deputy meets with a nasty accident with the shredding machine that secures Kris’ future at the company for a little while longer. Becoming a bit suspicious, particularly when Kris gains an instant promotion to marketing manager, Peter confides in his immediate superior (Oliver Platt) who is rapidly ushered into a body bag as the next victim of a simple ‘accident’.

Temp, The
Peter’s investigation into Kris’ behaviour is put down to a side-effect of his previous paranoid episodes but his life quickly crumbles around him as industrial espionage and more mysterious deaths put an intolerable strain on his fragile persona and place his malfunctioning marriage under threat once again.

All of the above sounds like The Temp makes for a neat little potboiler. Which would be correct; that is if it’s possible to overlook the fatally flawed psychological motives of the characters, enormous leaps of logic that require the removal of any sense of disbelief and a deeply disturbing misogynist streak a mile wide.

While it’s refreshing to see a psychological element to the story, Peter’s previous mental problems are merely an excuse for all the other characters to ignore the blindingly obvious and bleat “But Peter, it’s all in your mind!” ad nauseum.

That Kris is a scheming hussy with several screws loose is so patent that only characters held hostage by such a contrived screenplay would fail to notice. Furthermore, only in such a squirm inducingly silly premise would a simple secretary side step an employee body count to trouble the population of a small country and rise to be vice president of a major company in the space of about three weeks without more than at least one paranoid former mental patient crying foul.

Temp, The
In addition there’s a gender cynicism that’s unpleasant to the point of being unpalatable. It won’t spoil the plot to reveal that only one female character makes it through the ludicrous ending and that happens to be the dutiful wife waiting patiently for her errant husband to return to the familial home and make everything better. A couple of pertinent points concerning sexism in the workplace are raised but these are swiftly spoiled by some shamelessly voyeuristic camera shots of Boyle’s naughty bits that don’t attempt to shy away from their inclusion as simple ogling material.

Each of the eccentric and eclectic cast finds that trying to act his or her way out of this morass is no easy feat. Timothy Hutton looks lost as the leading man, Lara Flynn Boyle is wasted as the antagonist, Oliver Platt is the best actor on show before being swiftly bumped off, Maura Tierney can only simper as the loyal spouse, for all his Murdoch ‘A-Team’ coolness Dwight Schultz is out of his depth even in this limited company and Faye Dunaway (yes, that is her) appears awfully embarrassed to have signed up to such a piece of old tosh.

Temp, The
Riddled with continuity errors (in gallingly glaring one instance Peter is crocked on the cheek with an iron bar only to emerge from the ER with a suture on the wrong side of his face), Tom Holland’s direction is flat and uninspired. In such a crowded subgenre where so many superior thrillers stand head and shoulders above it, The Temp is clearly out of its depth.

For a film only a decade old, it is possible to expect a transfer from Paramount rather better than the one presented here. It’s not bad and Holland’s deathly dull palette does little to help but colours should be more vibrant, blacks should be deeper and shadow detail in the dark showdown sequence should be much better defined.

That said, when the film doesn’t call for nighttime scenes, detail levels are fine with the anamorphic enhancement. Newer films have been given poorer DVD releases than this one but it’s just disappointing that so little effort has been afforded this catalogue release.

While the subject matter is unlikely to strain a home cinema system, it’s gratifying to be treated to a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. The few musical stings that are called upon do really leap out of the rear channels and the dialogue is high in the mix, always admirably audible from the centre speaker.

The accompanying surround tracks, in a variety of four European languages, are not hugely inferior to their English equivalent. Despite regularly professing to hating dubbing, if you really can’t live without them, I contend the French and German offerings here aren’t too shabby at all.

Temp, The
Continuing their recent form in respect of recent Paramount catalogue releases not a dickie bird will be found in this section. Some input from Faye Dunaway or even Oliver Platt would have been much appreciated yet not even chapter selections are made available; the disc space is presumably taken up by all the subtitle options.

With Timothy Hutton unable to build on the promise he demonstrated in Q & A and Lara Flynn Boyle seemingly destined to be forever remembered as Jack Nicholson’s former girlfriend, at least Oliver Platt and Faye Dunaway emerged unscathed from this farrago to star in bigger and better things.

Leaden in its direction, cynical in its scripting, ludicrous in its logical laxity and presented on a technically mediocre disc, The Temp is unlikely to win a large new audience upon its DVD release. For fans of this movie, and there surely must be some out there, it’s still worth scooping up if it’s in a sale somewhere.