Touch Base

Touch Base

The nineteen minute short Touch Base from 1994 is pretty much a one-woman Lili Taylor show, which is fine, because Lili Taylor is generally pretty good, and I’d say is very good here, especially since I think it may be one continuous shot, though I’d have to watch it again to be sure. It kind of has the feel of watching something live, like a play.

The whole movie consists of Taylor sitting in her cubicle at work, chatting on the phone through an assortment of business and (mostly) personal calls. Occasionally someone—usually some kind of supervisor apparently—walks by, but Taylor remains invisible to them by pretending to be busy with something work-related, whether she is or not.

The early conversations are mostly light and gossipy, with the subject being her friend who works in another department, who may be at risk of being laid off, and who is seeing some new guy who may be bad news. Taylor gossips about her in a somewhat disparaging but not really mean-spirited way.

Gradually the mood of the film gets darker and more intense as Taylor becomes increasingly concerned about why she hasn’t heard from this friend yet, since they speak multiple times a day, always have lunch together, etc. She tries multiple times to reach her, always getting voicemail.

She finds out a mutual friend has been laid off by the company, which makes the possibility more real that her friend has been or will be laid off as well (or that she herself will).

Her panic grows with every phone call that fails to bring her news of her friend. Her concerns, left unspoken, are presumably either that the new boyfriend has harmed her, or that she has harmed herself, in response to something with the boyfriend or bad news about her job. At the end, Taylor breaks down at her desk (which the indifferent managers walking by fail to notice, indicating that she and her friend and office drones like them are pretty much non-human and invisible to the bosses whether they’re trying to avoid being noticed or not).

The intensity of the film drew me in as it developed, and as I say, Taylor is impressive in the role. My one complaint, though, is when you think about it she’s really overreacting. To be realistic, there probably needed to be some additional evidence or the passage of more time. Somehow in fifteen to twenty minutes at her desk, she’s gone from zero sign of concern, to utter panic at what might have befallen her friend, based on little in the way of evidence beyond the fact that her friend is not answering her phone.

So the scenario is not all that well constructed in that respect. But there’s enough emotional heft to this short that it deserves at least a modest recommendation.

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