THE STORY – In this workplace comedy reminiscent of “Office Space” and “Severance,” misfit Orson finds himself trapped in the absurdities of corporate life. As The Authority’s newest employee, Orson finds it difficult to connect with his enigmatic desk mate, Rakesh, as well as with the rest of his colleagues. His alienation deepens when he discovers a room he’s told doesn’t exist – a place that unleashes his true potential, leading to an ascent up the corporate ladder.
THE CAST – Jon Hamm, Danny Pudi, Christopher Heyerdahl & Sarah Gadon
THE TEAM – Joachim Back (Director) & Ted Kumper (Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 102 Minutes
It seemed after “Mad Men” ended, Hollywood was ready to fully embrace the singular talent that is Jon Hamm. The Emmy-winning actor has it all; he has the looks and the charisma and is equally proficient in comedy and drama. He was ready to be the next leading man to take the world by storm. Instead, his career hasn’t really been exactly what people thought it would be. It’s been filled with comedic appearances on television and fun supporting roles in films like “Baby Driver” and “Top Gun: Maverick.” Looking back, it’s a bit shocking that Hollywood hasn’t entirely utilized him as well as they should have (minus “Confess Fletch,” of course). Joachim Back’s “Conor Office” offers an intriguing premise packaged with an unusually captivating performance from Hamm but doesn’t offer any else in return.
“Corner Office” follows Orson (played by Hamm), a bureaucratic neer do well who begins working at a new job. Besides filling out reports, not much is to be known about what Orson actually does at “The Authority.” Eager to work his way to the top of the chain, Orson dives head first into acclimating to his new work environment. Along the way, Orson finds a mysterious room that is an abandoned corner office. In the “room,” Orson becomes the best version of himself that he aspires to be. He becomes more proficient in his work, and his confidence grows, giving him the tools he needs to usurp the hierarchy of power at “The Authority” eventually. Although this offers Orson the edge he needs, his increased visits to “the room” begin to alienate him from the rest of his co-workers, and he must balance the forces trying to stop him from being his best self.
Jon Hamm is the life force of this film. “Corner Office” wouldn’t work without what he brings to the character of Orson. Orson has a sociopathic personality, yet he never comes off as threatening whatsoever. He is desperate to make something of himself no matter how manipulative or unsociable he becomes. There’s a certain sense of compassion that Hamm is able to bring to the character, despite having a standoffish persona. His deadpan reactions to everything unfolding around him are also quite entertaining as he’s dialed into Back’s comedic sensibilities as an artist. Surprisingly, Orson doesn’t speak much, as the film heavily implements narration. While Hamm does his best to sell it, the narration becomes incredibly grating after a while, especially as the film takes a bit to get going. Sarah Gadon (who plays Alyssa) is the film’s only supporting performance of note. The few scenes she has with Hamm are enjoyable. Everyone else is along for the ride, which is a shame because Danny Pudi and Christopher Heyerdahl could bring more to the table if given the opportunity. This is a showcase for Hamm, and everyone around him is just there to make him better.
Besides Hamm’s performance, there’s a peculiar energy that the film radiates. Its absurd nature and the constant unknowns about the corporation and what the employees of “The Authority” do lend audiences enough to stay engaged with the film. That mysterious aurora is nothing more than surface level as there isn’t much the film doesn’t already say by the forty-minute mark. “Conor Office’s” commentary on the mundanity and toxicity of office work culture never goes anywhere that isn’t expected. The film’s pacing is frustrating at times as it feels the leisurely tempo holds the film back immensely. Besides watching Hamm and his idiosyncratic reactions to the oddball co-workers of “The Authority,” nothing really happens. There’s a side plot that involves Gordon’s character that leads to some of the film’s more surreal and engaging moments, but it doesn’t sufficiently pay off. It feels Back is trying to make the most of an underwhelming screenplay that adapts the novel of the same name.
Even though every choice doesn’t pan out, some of the film’s technicals are pretty good. One can appreciate the cinematography from Pawel Edelman and its reinforcement of the tone Back establishes. “Corner Office” is filled with plenty of Dutch camera angles and invasive close-ups that help sell the uneasiness of the workplace and those who operate in it. There’s also a brief dance sequence that is beautifully shot, although some aggressive editing chops it up. The production design is also attractive as it sells the homogenous nature of the American workplace. Besides the editing, the score was the only offputting technical aspect of the film. It’s incredibly distracting and does not pair well with anything happening on screen.
Ultimately, “Corner Office” has nothing new to say we haven’t heard in other similar projects that came before it. It’s a shame because the film’s premise is genuinely engrossing, and the leading performance from Hamm is excellent. It’s easy to see on paper the appeal of this project and the potential it had. While Hamm does everything he can to elevate the film, the film offers nothing in return to him making “Corner Office” just another odd addition to the filmography of a talented individual who should be one of Hollywood’s biggest stars.