I’m among those who try to avoid the term “guilty pleasure,” but there are times when it absolutely applies. This observation brings us straight to The Temp, one of the rare movies of my college radio reviewing tenure that I reported my viewpoint with a degree of sheepishness. But I also stand by this review. It’s been ages since I’ve seen it, but I know I had a blast watching this every time I stumbled upon a cable TV showing.
Director Tom Holland has always approached his horror films with a certain cheekiness. Fright Night was a terrific vampire film that treated its subject with respect and refreshing wit simultaneously, and Child’s Play made a tiny killer doll effective by knowing how and when to not treat the murderous character too seriously. Now, with The Temp, Holland has crafted a fast, frothy thriller about a secretary from hell. The film succeeds in all the same ways as its predecessors.
Lara Flynn Boyle is the temporary secretary assigned to Tim Hutton during a frantic time at the dessert company he works for. She proves to be a marvel of the workplace, organizing his office into perfection and coming up with smart, money-saving ideas. Boyle is also aggressively climbing up the corporate ladder, and Hutton suspects she is knocking her chief competitors clean off the rungs in the process.
The Temp is willfully trashy and is more interested in playing with the audience than telling a reasonable, coherent story, but those aspects are exactly what make it such great fun. And added stroke of brilliance is establishing that Hutton’s character is recovering from a series of mental problems that included nasty paranoia. So when he begins to suspect that Boyle is trying to frame him at one point, the movie invites us to believe that it’s just Hutton’s misperceptions running loose again.
Like a scummy paperback potboiler — the kind with phrases like “blood-curdling” and “descent into terror” on its deep, dark cover — The Temp gleefully pulls the audience in. Even if you think the movie is ridiculous, you’re bound to find yourself going along willingly.