The wellspring of creativity resides within the human mind. Amid the monotony of daily routines in a static world, people find solace in creativity and imagination. Within the confines of a mundane office setting, we all yearn for a room of our own, where the regular cacophony fades, and we can function attentively to bring out the best of our work. In this place, the hidden brilliance of an individual that gets lost in the crowd could thrive once again.
Drawing inspiration from Jonas Karlsson’s novel The Room, Joachim Back’s inaugural feature, Corner Office, explores a similar notion. It envisions a haven where reality’s limits disappear, letting people express themselves and their creativity. Unfortunately, only a few can create such a haven. Like the film’s main character, Orson (played by John Hamm), a typical office worker who excels only in his personal inner chamber at work—a chamber that is unique and is known only to Orson. Corner Office, in essence, is a satirical drama that explores the nebulous boundary between reality and imagination while also delving deeper into the human psyche that often yearns for validation at the workplace.
What Happens in the Film?
Orson, the newest employee in the office, had an introverted and reserved nature. He preferred working in a quiet environment and was initially annoyed by his messy deskmate, Rakesh, who often cluttered Orson’s space with his files. One day, while exploring the office, Orson stumbled upon a unique room situated between the toilet and the elevator. This room, adorned with artistic decor and soothing colors, provided the perfect tranquil work setting, even surpassing his boss’s chamber.
The twist was that only Orson could see and access this room. When Orson tried to show the room to Rakesh, the latter only saw Orson standing still near a wall, seemingly lost in thought. Despite Orson’s efforts, other employees also failed to see the room, leading them to worry about his mental well-being. Andrew, the boss, attempted to reason with Orson, insisting the room didn’t exist, but Orson stood firm in his belief. In response to the skepticism, Orson decided to pretend that he could no longer see the room. Yet he cleverly devised a way to use the room to his advantage. Orson began taking on tasks from his colleagues, completing their unfinished work during overtime. But no one had the slightest idea that he utilized his secret room for these tasks, where he felt most productive. Despite his colleagues’ growing admiration for Orson’s impeccable work ethic, they remained oblivious to his imaginary chamber. Andrew was genuinely impressed by Orson’s exceptional output, unaware that the room played a crucial role in Orson’s heightened performance.
Meanwhile, Orson had an opportunity to speak with Alyssa, the receptionist, with whom he initially shared a mutual attraction. She expressed curiosity about his secret room and insisted on seeing it. But on Christmas evening, when Orson took her there, he believed Alyssa liked the room. While in his mind they spent quality time with each other inside that room, Alyssa could only find him standing against the wall, not moving or speaking with her the entire time. This experience frustrated Alyssa, and she left abruptly. The following day, she confronted Orson, asking him if he was on drugs, which caught him off guard. He had believed Alyssa was someone who trusted him and shared his enjoyment of the room, but he was disappointed once again. On a different note, Andrew, impressed by Orson’s performance, gifted him a comfortable pair of shoes. However, Orson had a different request—he wanted the secret room as his own workspace to enhance his work efficiency. This request raised further concerns for Andrew, as it reinforced Orson’s apparent instability.
Fearing that Orson’s behavior could disturb other employees’ peace of mind and also hinder the work environment, Andrew decided to let Orson go. Under orders from the EVP, Andrew had to terminate Orson’s employment due to his perceived mental instability. Furious with the disbelief he encountered from his colleagues, Orson criticized the lack of creativity and innovation within the office. He pointed out that everyone was confined by rules and norms, stifling their imagination and hindering their work quality. While security escorted Orson out, he defiantly returned to the building and managed to evade the guards, reaching his secret room. There, he found a sense of solace and freedom after entering the room. Yet, from the perspective of the other employees, Orson was once again seen standing still against the wall, situated between the restroom and elevator.
‘Corner Office’ Review
Corner Office utilizes an intriguing and somewhat Kafkaesque narrative approach that seamlessly weaves together humor and mystery, keeping us engaged throughout. John Hamm’s expertly delivered voice-over narration skillfully translates the intricate spectrum of emotions experienced by the main character, Orson. It helps us connect with Orson’s journey and resonate with his emotions and thoughts. As the film solely focuses on Orson’s life surrounding the office, it highlights the absence of his personal life or any interesting elements within it. Even though the film was entirely set on the premises of the office, making the plot a little monotonous, Hamm’s exceptional comedic timing and skillful emotional expression through body language keep the audience engaged in the love story of Orson and his beloved room.
Derived from cinematic classics such as Office Space and Severance, Corner Office strikes a resonant chord by presenting a fluent take on the genre. The movie’s visual style smoothly combines with a hint of unease, skillfully portraying the constant snowy and wintery landscape outside the office. This contrast effectively symbolizes the unease of everyday corporate routine.
In conclusion, Corner Office presents an enjoyable cinematic experience that delves into a range of themes. Through skillful storytelling, Corner Office delves into office life’s complexities, weaving in humor and mystery. While the film explores the familiar territory of the monotonous corporate world, it distinguishes itself by offering a fresh approach. With John Hamm’s hilarious yet thought-provoking performance and an additional layer of mystery, the film earns its place among Hollywood’s rich collection of office-themed movies.