It was a short, industry-oriented note from the producers informing me that I was about to encounter sex, drugs, and foul language. And so I did, giddily. I also encountered the kind of lightning-in-a-bottle comedic magic that infused contemporary ensemble classics like “The Breakfast Club” and “Empire Records.”
The film, a grand-slam giggler concerning the exploits of a group of self-obsessed slackers on inventory day at a small furniture retailer, is side-splitting, clock-punching fun. A brilliant spiritual fusion of “Clerks”, ‘Waiting,” and senior study-hall, “Inventory” is a fresh take on what happens when too much time, too many brains, and not enough motivation are left to ferment in a vat of minimum-wage apathy. Between the romantic musings of the awkward Percy (the quirkily likeable Dennis Hurley), the rising and falling of not one, but two workplace liaisons, and the redemption of a bible-thumping, one-time groupie-rock-slut, Bess (screen-scene favorite Irina Peligrad), the story rings true, and we’ve all been there.
It’s within the framework of the two romances that many of the film’s best jokes are found. Whether it’s the petty sniping between the arrogant Chuck (Ken Breese) and the sensitive Eleanor (Amanda Hurley) or the tongue-in-cheek pillow talk of brusque Greg (Christian Anthony) and the delightfully loopy Zoe (Cat Miller), the pleasures and pitfalls of on the job dating are played to hilarious effect. Did I mention the guy who’s moving on to a better gig, (the too-cool Quentin James) or the foul-mouthed co-worker who thinks they know kung-fu, (the hysterically brash Shelly Nun-Chucks Finnegan.) Sorry about that, I lit up nearly as often the staff at Panda did, so I’m a little less than organized. Like I said, we’ve all been there.
With a crisp, clean visual approach that is less than common in today’s indie-film world and a fun, semi-narrative soundtrack, writer/director/producer Justin Fielding can consider the technical concerns present and accounted for. The camera work was smooth, with the most being made of the single-location setting. The editing and shot-composition were approached in such a way that each exchange between actors not only focused the viewer’s attention, but kept the story on track and in a state of organic motion.
This kind of story is most often played out with a younger cast, usually as an opportunity to show that they can play well with others, ignite chemistry, and have a sense of timing. While all of those skills and more were on full display, I was struck by how many of the cast members seemed to be within my own 30-something age bracket. The overall effect was a sense of heightened reality being lent to the project. Why? The answer is as clear as the black and white of the financial pages.
Many of us ‘adults’ are finding ourselves in the same limbo of job-placement compromises as the staff at the fictional “Panda Furniture.” It may not be in the furniture business, but more and more people are coming face-to-face with a “just-a-job” existence. It’s an existence typified on the screen; an unpleasant, overbearing supervisor, an oblivious, unrealistic employer, and co-workers who seem to not care about the job or the people they work with. The difference in this film’s approach is that previously, characters in these kinds of situations were played as born-losers. Now, it could be anyone of us so called “go-getters.”
Luckily for all of us trudging through the tedium of today’s work place, we can turn to the our friends at Panda Furniture for working-class wit, wholesale humor, and the kind of break-room antics that will keep your funny bone working overtime. If you aren’t sure when you’ll be free to enjoy this first-rate farce of first-shift follies, I suggest faking a sick day. It’ll be well worth the write-up.
True, the premise of the film is something we have all seen before. Workplace comedies were nothing new when “Office Space” informed us all what flair was. What this film offers is the opportunity of recognizing hope. By the end of the workday, we’ve learned a thing or three about the staff of Panda Furniture, as have they from each other. More importantly, we’ve learned that we can make the best of our circumstances, and ourselves, with the least likely of allies. All we have to do is take “Inventory” of our lives.
Director: Justin Fielding
Film's website: http://www.castparty.com/inventory.html
Screening at The Regent Theater, April 12th, 2011
Review written by Joseph James Bellamy
Editor: Rod Webber
Published by Reel Zine
© Reel Zine 2011