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Entertaining Temp suffers from unsatisfying conclusion

The Temp
Directed by Tom Holland.
Written by Kevin Falls.
Starring Timothy Hutton and Lara Flynn Boyle.

By Joshua M. Andresen

Staff Reporter

This is an entertaining film that suffers from bad acting and bad editing. The concept is wonderful and the suspense scenes are very well done, but viewers may leave the theatre feeling unsatisfied with the movie's conclusion.

The Temp is a psychological thriller along the lines of Hand that Rocks the Cradle, but set in the corporate jungle instead of the family unit. The motive here is to get ahead instead of to take revenge. Kris Bolin (Lara Flynn Boyle) is a temporary secretary hired by Peter Derns (Timothy Hutton) when his usual secretary takes leave. Kris dedicates herself to working her way up the corporate ladder, and she starts out rather successfully because of a series of convenient accidents and mishaps. Peter is convinced that Kris is behind all the supposed accidents, but he has problems convincing his coworkers that he is right because he has been seeing a psychiatrist to help him deal with a problem he has with paranoia.

This works well as a psychological thriller because the Hollywood clich of one person stalking another in some deserted building with some weapon or another is avoided. The suspense comes as Peter loses his control over all aspects of his life, apparently at the hands of Kris. This is very well done. No one knows what is really going on, least of all Peter, whose life is being manipulated and ruined, leaving him practically powerless.

The glaring problem with this film is no one ever finds out what is going on. Many of the "accidents" are presumably staged, yet are remarkably clever. How these were set up is never revealed to the audience. It would be nice if at the end we find out who did what and how. What we get instead is a culprit whose involvement is merely implied, rather than explained. Perhaps the clever accidents were meant to be just that, but this has less appeal.

The action at the end also becomes choppy and disconnected. The film jumps from sequence to sequence with little or no transition. Events get explained less and less until the closing scene which appears to be a simple and sloppy "quick ending." This is really too bad, as the film would have much potential if it were made smoother.

The acting was not incredible either. Boyle was at times unconvincing as the evil mastermind with the potential to wind her way to the top of the corporate ladder. Rebecca de Mornay did a better job in her role as the evil mastermind in Hand that Rocks. Hutton is not as bad in the lead role, but he is also unbelievable at times.

One delight of the film is the cinematography as the accidents are investigated. The camera teases the audience with utter ruthlessness, bringing everyone to the edge of their seats. The best of these is after Peter's permanent secretary returns to work and has to unjam the paper shredder. Enough said.

Overall, this is an entertaining film, if unsatisfying in the resolution. Go to be thrilled but do not expect to be challenged intellectually.