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    Mall is beautiful

    The sharply satirical "Waydowntown" follows four Canadian office workers on a bet about who can go the longest without ever stepping outside the shopping mall that has taken over downtown.


    "When I was a kid, I thought it was a really bad idea to group all the big downtown buildings in one place," intones our hero Tom at the beginning of "Waydowntown." "The reason is that it would be too easy for the supervillains to pick up the whole downtown and hold it hostage, as supervillains will do."

    Directed by: Gary Burns.
    Written by: Gary Burns, James Martin.
    Cast: Fab Filippo, Don McKellar, Marya Delver, Gordon Currie, Jennifer Clement, Tammy Isbell, Tobias Godson, James McBurney, Nick Cleary, Brian Stollery..

    Related links: Official site
    This is our first hint of a vague neurosis that may be peculiarly Canadian. The movie is set in Calgary, where the downtown buildings have been connected into one big shopping mall so that people won't have to go out into the cold. (It could just as well be set in Toronto or Montreal, which have something similar.) If you lived close enough to your office, you might never have to step outside at all — you might even grow comfortable with your hamster-like existence, taking the Habitrail to work, becoming a connoisseur of each floor's food court ("Three is a poor man's five," Tom says), and maybe slipping away to the parking lot for a meaningless lay with a girl who undoubtedly works behind the counter of a store called something like Just Flowerpots.

    Instead of just poking fun at office life or mall culture from a lofty height, "Waydowntown" embraces them up close — instead of trying to escape, our heroes are burrowing in deeper.  

    And that's the idea behind this subtly brilliant satire. We're in on a four-person office bet — a month's salary to see which of four young drones-in-training can last the longest without ever going outside. Instead of just poking fun at office life or mall culture from a lofty height, "Waydowntown" embraces them up close — instead of trying to escape, our heroes are burrowing in deeper.

    The three stars play their characters with a perfect sense of suppressed desperation. Fab Filippo is a charismatic Tom, battling to rule the mall before the mall rules him. Marya Delver is the savvy Sandra, who survives at the breaking point by sniffing perfume samples from magazines in lieu of fresh air while she chases her company's kleptomaniac president from store to store. And Don McKellar (writer director of the excellent end-of-the-world film "Last Night") as Bradley is already too far gone to be in on the bet — he sits uncomplainingly in his cubicle and staples motivational messages like "Don't make excuses, make improvements!" to his chest.

    Co-writer and director Gary Burns has produced a darkly funny movie that's not only masterfully written but also visually jarring. Most scenes are shot in a constrained but changing three-color scheme that's neither color nor black-and-white — clothes become dark green or blue, skin is peach, eyes and lips are black. Some viewers may be uneasy with both the style and the substance because they don't get the concept, and others will be uneasy because they do. "Waydowntown" comes on at first like a small ensemble movie about four people in a forgettable Midwestern locale but it's really a disturbingly accurate warning about the direction of human life throughout the mallified world.

    JANUARY 25, 2002

    Reader comments on Waydowntown:

  • excellent   from kim, Mar 11, 2003
  • Wow   from Stephan, Mar 25, 2005
  • Beyond Supurb!   from Tania, Jun 2, 2005
  • [no subject]   from Bailey, Oct 17, 2005

  • Post a comment on "Waydowntown"