By Andrew Buckner
Rating: ****1/2 out of *****.
The primary joke of “Over Coffee”, a fifteen minute short from 2010 that was written and directed by Sean Meehan, is the lengths someone will go for that all-important morning cup of joe. The ticking clock motif is hilariously utilized in this situation. Such occurs as we find out that this beverage isn’t for our office laboring lead, Andrew (in a likeable performance by Erik Potempa that showcases the everyday qualities of his on-screen persona to terrific effect). It is for the imposing real-estate entrepreneur, Hamilton Rice (in another masterful portrayal by the always watchable Timothy J. Cox). He is from Rice Realty Inc. We learn in the first few minutes, in one of the many triumphantly humorous initial bits, that he has an obsessive fascination with the Post-It notes and their colors’ representational values. When a meeting that was scheduled with him at Wednesday at noon turns to “he’s on his way” the office Andrew works at descends into chaos. Andrew sees this as an opportunity to help out the girl he has unvoiced affections for: Carla (a tremendous representation by Jocelyn DeBoer that mirrors Potempa’s enactment in charisma). This is by executing an exploit he fools himself into thinking will be easy. It is to get Rice his coffee, measured out to his demanding specifications, before he shows up.
This set-up is splendidly introduced five minutes in. The last 2/3 are a cheery, light, but dead-on, parody. Such is of the maddening rush of the work-world. It is also about how, especially for those of us who are feeling the aforementioned crunch of labor and time, the simplest of tasks become the most difficult and strenuous. This pressure is perfectly realized in the opening moments. Such is a reverie of sorts involving Andrew’s run to his place of employment. This can be seen as a delightful thesis statement to the entire exertion.
It is this allure which helps propel Meehan’s attempt to such successful heights. An early sequence between Andrew and David (in another of the many enjoyably wrought performances herein), where the duo are engaging in a conversation about cell phones and relationships that is sprinkled with one funny sexual innuendo after another, could’ve been cut from any closed door office friendship. A mid-film arrangement involving the laborious undertaking of getting a coffee order right, especially when said coded in a dense Starbucks-esque language, also adds to the breezy, slice of life comedy at hand. The romantic element also further illuminates such an aspect. It makes for a finale that is wonderfully old-fashioned in its upbeat simplicity and joviality. This makes Meehan’s work perfect viewing to break up another cloudy day of toil. This is by pointing out the absurdity of many of the situations we, the laborers, find commonplace.
This detail is also thanks to a sharp, genuinely hilarious and character-oriented screenplay by Meehan. He gives us direction that fits the atmosphere of the material beautifully. This endeavor parallels itself to the look, luster and pace of similarly themed genre cracks well. Yet, it always feels fresh, unique and new. The Two-Five Films and A Studio in Production release benefits from vibrant music by Eric Campo. Matt Schwarz’s cinematography is exceptional. The same can be said for Meehan and Schwarz’s editing. Contributions from the five members of the sound department are also terrific. To add to the skillfulness visible throughout, Mallory Portnoy is outstanding in her representation of Laura.
Meehan aims to amuse and brighten with this venture. This he triumphs at stupendously. His exhibition is even paced and consistently entertaining throughout. The composition has just the right amount of well-timed comic moments and affectionate instances. This is utilized without ever appearing to artificially strive for either. The piece, made for $5,000, is amiable at every turn. Meehan injects the same demeanor here that made later efforts like 2015’s “Total Performance” so winning. His goal is to appeal to a mass audience by using themes we can all find applicable. This is one of the many triumphs on-screen. “Over Coffee” is a tour de force achievement. It is one which seems to have a bit of a Woody Allen spirit to the proceedings. Such makes this phenomenal accomplishment all the more endearing. This is the increasingly rare cinematic product which will be undoubtedly relevant, in some form or another, to practically everyone who crosses its merry path.