All Sorts is a delightful film by writer and director, J. Rick Castañeda. It’s an eccentric amalgamation of projects like Office Space (1999), Beetlejuice (1988), and The Notebook (2004). It has Office Space, cult-classic potential because it provides an engagingly creative take on the monotony of white-collar office work and the latent suffering that goes with it. The film’s set design and editing techniques are skillfully reminiscent of Tim Burton’s wildly successful, Beetlejuice. And we’re even given a little sprinkling of forbidden romance. Overall, Castañeda does a great job of taking the best components of these movies and making an ostensibly boring set of circumstances uniquely whimsical, funny, and thought-provoking.
The film gives us “all sorts” of characters to appreciate and fall in love with. (Castañeda outdoes himself by making the office calendar and copy machine characters in their own right!) However, the main character, Diego (Eli Vargas) stands out. He’s as relatable as he is pitiful. Castañeda presents Diego as a destitute drone of the American workforce. Every day feels like a Monday for him, but he hardly complains, and you admire that about him. Vargas does an excellent job throughout the movie selling Diego’s commitment to suffering in an endearing way. The film establishes work as a necessary evil, but by the end of it, utilizes Diego and his favorite coworker, June (Greena Park), to reveal its potential to be something creative and fulfilling. That makes the movie an uplifting experience.
Another character that I have to talk about is Vasquez, played by Luis Deveze. He contributes brilliant levity throughout the film with all of the skill of Detective Clouseau. (Look him up, kids.) Deveze’s performance is so cheeky and, at times, even steals the show. There is a scene where he displays genuine amazement at Diego’s ability to type a rather average number of words per minute and it makes you wonder how or why this guy is in charge a la The Pink Panther (1963). Vasquez is an obvious archetype, but he is also the glue that holds the cast together.
And the character work is one of the strongest parts of All Sorts. There are no A-list actors in the film, but the film’s ensemble delivers A-grade performances. Every character, whether they be principle or bit, brings something worthwhile to the story. The random discourse that goes on in the office throughout the film is a testament to that. At one point, Maria (Maria Galvan) refuses to acknowledge Diego’s existence because she’s on break. Another worker refuses to offer Diego any help unless he furnishes a king’s ransom in PAYDAY candy bars. PAYDAYs. It all comes across as totally absurd, but somehow, still, true to life.
The film provides the controlled surrealism of a Salvador Dalí painting. That controlled surrealism is the absolute best part of All Sorts. Castañeda makes incredibly efficient use of screen framing in nearly every act. There are some wide shots and interstitial uses of B-roll, but most of the movie’s shots are deceptively tight. The constant tightness creates a deep level of intimacy with the characters of the film and everything they’re going through. You viscerally feel their emotional strife. You feel in tune with their tasks. This is made possible because it seems like you’ve been right there, almost in their lap, the whole time. This all becomes wonderfully evident during the emotional crescendo of the movie.
Ultimately, All Sorts is a fantastic and provocative piece of art. It's a movie that offers strong storylines, solid characters, and some clever camerawork. Moreover, it makes excellent use of metanarrative and seems to pay homage to writers like Edgar Allan Poe (The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket) and Henry James (The Turn of the Screw). I’ll leave it to you to identify those correlations. But trust me, they’re there.
For more information about the film visit: All Sorts.