Patrick and Susan, two co-workers at an office, try to keep their upcoming party a secret when they discover they’ve forgotten to invite their co-worker Larry, who has “severe anger issues.”
But instead of inviting him, they decide to keep their secret to themselves, making for a tense work week, complete with random drug tests and bickering over food and questionable drinks in the communal fridge. Throw in Larry’s cheating fiancee and a dying grandma, and the trouble-making duo may have created themselves a powder keg that could ignite any moment.
Writer-directorsGreg Porper and John Schimke’s short workplace comedy has a scattershot energy, stuffed with hilarious, sometimes digressive repartee and a screwball rhythm. But instead of constantly escalating circumstances and situations that characterize screwball comedy, the dynamic shifts here come from the interactions between the constantly bantering and rascally duo and their increasingly unhinged co-worker Larry.
The most dramatic events happen offscreen — which is a pity, because they sound ridiculously over-the-top — but the emotional fallout happens at the office, where gossip circulates like a bad cold in winter. The co-worker pair at the center of the film cover up their subterfuge with a flurry of excuses, verbal diversions and flat-out lies, but they find themselves weaving an increasingly complex trap for themselves.
The short shines with its dynamic fusion of terrifically paced performance and dialogue, which bounces from eccentricity to eccentricity with verve and a bit of a wink. Fans of comedies like “The Office” will appreciate the banter and verbal dexterity, as well as those tiny reaction shots where people pretend to overlook their more unstable colleagues’ behavior and antics. The short may not quite pay off its central conflict, but it offers an amusingly dramatic build-up, the pleasure of crackling wit and self-aware ludicrous twists and turns.
The workplace comedy has a hallowed place in the genre, where offices often throw conflicting personalities together in close proximity, forming a pressure-cooker situation that fizzles and pops in often unexpected ways. “Don’t Tell Larry” sits firmly in this tradition, offering a series of jazzlike riffs on forced co-existence with, ahem, “big” personalities — and perhaps the relief that we don’t have to work an office like this.