Each post, I revisit films I loved as a lad, most of them inappropriate given my tender age at the time, and decide if they still pass muster. This is the concluding installment of my special Crazy Bitches edition.  And, of course, there are spoilers abound.


Disclaimer: Not a still from the actual film, but far more disturbing than any part
of the film.


The Temp (February 12, 1993)

The Joey Gist:  I saw this at Clearview Cinema 5 in Bergenfield, NJ a few weekends into its release with my father and my cousin Christian.  I can’t recall the actual date, but I do know that I successfully convinced them to see this instead of Army of Darkness, then spent most of the ride home apologizing/justifying why The Temp had surely been the better choice.  I was around 10.5 years old.

The Film’s Gist: Simply put–because the movie, in retrospect, as I will discuss a bit later, is both shockingly flimsy and indecipherable–Peter (Timothy Hutton) is an advertising executive at a–wait for it–major cookie company (!) in Portland, OR, suffering from paranoid delusions so bad they resulted in a separation from his wife (a typically mousy and box-banged Maura Tierney–Early 90’s thriller stape #1), in need of a temp after his heterosexual-male-secretary-named-Lance (Early 90’s thriller staple #2) goes on bonding leave.  Enter a post-Twin Peaks, pre-blowfish-face Lara Flynn Boyle as cleverly unisexual-named Kris Bolin (Early 90’s thriller staple #3), a bizarrely super-duper qualified temp (allegedly a Stanford grad) who immediately helps the always-in-crisis Peter out of a, well, crisis.  Peter is intrigued by Kris at first, the two have a lot of steamy brush-ups and quiet close-talking moments of sensual office banter, but he slowly begins to see Kris for the ruthless, conniving, perhaps even murderous, crazy bitch that she is…or is she?  Is Peter’s paranoia what is bringing down his thriving career in Portland’s dog-eat-dog cookie scene, or is Kris actually up to no good?  Rounding out the cast are Faye Dunaway, Oliver Platt, and Steven Weber (or, Early 90’s thriller staples #4, 5, and 6).

What I Thought Then: Lara Flynn Boyle sure is purdy…

Okay, What I Really Thought Then: Part of me always knew that The Temp wasn’t a great movie but, as I implied earlier, I was hooked on Lara.  She had a great run there for a while, my strong affinity for her beginning when she rode her bike into a parked car in Wayne’s World (“Hi Wayne. Hiiiii…”), and ending right around the time she got that DUI and was committed to all that community service in a Hollywood nursing home  Wait, what? Oh? That was her relationship with Jack Nicholson?  Oh yeah, that’s right. But I digress.  Lara delivers every line in this film so quietly and so short of breath, you have to wonder if they went over budget on boom mics.  And an intense crazy bitch staring at the screen, practically moaning her lines for 96 minutes…well, don’t underestimate what that can do to a prepubescent boy from New Jersey. The Temp was also one of those movies I could recommend to my parents’ dinner guests that wouldn’t embarrass anyone because, despite the R rating, there’s no nudity, no violence, hardly any harsh language.  I can’t help but wonder if the filmmakers begged for an R just to get people into the theater.  Because, honestly, PG-13 would have sufficed.  Finally, The Temp made me feel intelligent for sitting through and enjoying such an “adult” thriller. Now, though, I just feel like a sucker.  More on that in a bit.

What’s Still Good:  Well, despite the fact that she plays her role as if she’s in a different movie entirely, it’s always satisfying to watch Faye Dunaway.  She plays Charlene, the president of the cookie company (LOL!), and she goes on long, foreboding diatribes about how, despite “yoga breaks” and “office day care, people still stab you in the back just like they did in the 80’s, they just smile whil they do it,” says she’s had “more knives stuck in her than Julius Caeser,” and most of her scenes involve her arriving in a hallway, snapping her fingers for her underlings to join her, panicking about how big bad “New York!” is going to eat them alive for this, and for that, and then for this again, etc.  And as absurd and unrealistic a portrayal of the cutthroat business world as it is, it’s fun to watch Dunaway chew scenery for a while.

Boyle has a lot of great moments as the title villain, and by great I mean unintentionally hilarious, like when she has a confrontation with a female colleague over using molasses in their oatmeal cookie recipe–no, no, I’m not kidding!  The bitchy colleague is all “Look, honey, molasses costs too much and we’re already in production, bla bla bla” and Boyle, with a terrible yarn ball of hair extensions wrapped around her forehead, slowly glides over to her and says, their mouths so close they could kiss: “Actually, real molasses would cost less overall and would be healthier, more organic.  I checked. it. out,” and suddenly pulls out a thick binder FULL of information about molasses (!) and storms out of the cookie lab, vindicated, leaving the female colleague HUMILIATED and the male executives rearranging themselves with glee.  There are a few other moments like this which are basically awesome, but only if you’re open to the “good-terrible” in things.

There’s also a sort of sexy (?) scene at the company picnic when Hutton is having a beer on a float in the river and Boyle swims over to him, regales him with a story of how in high school, when she’d go to the lake with her boyfriend, they’d drift off and have some crazy underwater sex.  “No one could tell what we were doing,” she subtly explains, “we just looked like two lovers embracing.  Wouldn’t it be fun if you and I did the SAME thing RIGHT NOW?”  Hutton sips his beer and sighs, and Boyle swims away.  That’s pretty much it.  Sorry.

Oh, except for the life-size Mrs. Applebee (the fictional cookie company figurehead) cardboard cut-out that looms in the office hallway.  Every time someone turns a corner, she’s there, with her cookie sheet, smiling conspicuously  That’s about as scary as the movie gets.

What’s Not So Good: Oh dear.  For starters, several people end up dead–disgusting Oliver Platt dies in his car from a bunch of hornet stings (yes, after his greasy exec character screams like a bitch at the sight of a hornet on a lunch table, we see a crazy look in Boyle’s crazy eyes–well, actually she impresses everyone by crushing it with her palm like a psychopath and not even flinching, so woo, we know she’s not scared of them!) without any explanation of why there’d be hornets in his car, or who could get them in there?  When the secretary, ahem, Lance, that Boyle is temping for returns, he inexplicably gets his hands chopped up in this scary, medieval paper shredder because he “accidentally unplugged the copier instead of the shredder”–again, are we to believe that someone/Boyle’s character crawled in behind him without anyone noticing and plugged the machine back in so she could stay on with Hutton and Co. longer?  In an even more outrageous scene, when the fantastic new oatmeal cookies are being tested at a local supermarket, an old lady and a punk teenager start spitting up blood because shrapnel (!?!?!?!) got into the batter.  This threatens to bring down the entire company, but shortly after, the factory is exonerated on any wrong doing after inspections (“Not even a cock-a-roach!” exclaims the jolly baker!) so, again, how the hell did the big bad crazy bitch temp get SHRAPNEL into THAT batch of COOKIES!? No explanation. In another instance of absurdity, a colleague the temp argues with at the near-orgy company picnic winds up hanging himself (?) from the rafter of the office space that is being renovated. All signs keep pointing to Boyle, but I mean, she’s five foot nothing, weighs like 85 pounds, and the guy is hung with some crazy metal chain about 15 feet in the air.  So, pray tell, how the hell did Sister Solider pull THAT off?

The movie offers an ambiguous finale in which we’re led to believe that perhaps Faye Dunaway’s character is in fact the villain (and you know, I guess it makes it more believable that Mommie Dearest could pull off all those feats of superhuman strength and cunning) but, in a very Sliver-esque move (and oh yes, I will indeed be revisiting THAT one in a few weeks, don’t you worry), everything we believed to be true is reversed about three minutes later in a tense moment of realization on Hutton’s part.  And the best he can do, once he’s pieced together enough “evidence” that Boyle is indeed the bad guy (and I use the term “evidence” loosely because this paranoid freak has nothing more than a couple of drug-store picture frames with an image of a father and daughter he comes across at the end of the movie–the SAME FRAME BOYLE KEPT ON HER DESK AND SAID WERE HER HUSBAND AND DAUGHTER! ACK!) He tells her she’s fired at the end and the violins* start and the screen goes black. And blegh, this dumb ass movie is over.

The Current Gist: *I was watching this with my dear friend Meghan last night and in the opening montage of oh-so-tough executive life, the music grows progressively whimsical to the point where Meghan snarled, “What is this, a CHRISTMAS movie?”  And she’s right.  And that’s the perfect way to sum this mess up–The Temp is a film that has NO idea what it wants to be.  Is it a Fatal Attraction rip? Is it a corporate thriller? Is it a whodunit? Is it meant to be some sort of commentary on paranoia?  And what is with the evil, scary, vindictive off-screen character known as NEW YORK that everyone keeps talking about?  Every time something goes wrong, it’s “New York is going to love this!” or “New York is going to eat us alive!” or “New York likes games without rules!”  So, is it some sort of weird foreshadowing of impending economic gloom, somehow played out in a microcosmic setting of a…gulp…cookie company with a ruthlessly ambitious femme fatale as a stand-in for Wall Street, evily, maliciously creeping into the lives of the earnest, hardworking Portlanders? Wait a second…perhaps, in these harsh economic times, this one is ripe for a remake?

Faye Dunaway: 10/10
Everything Else: 5/10