Directed by Aaron Goodmiller
Starring Jay Saunders, Doug Henderson, Rebecca Wahls, Devon Brookshire, Dylan Hares
Indie Film Review by Andrew Galvin
When faced with an impossibly low budget for your first feature comedy—as most directors are—finding a widely relatable situation is a good way to go. Admins, the debut from German-born Aaron Goodmiller, does just this, focusing on the world of IT admins in a major American corporation. This, of course, is a danger at the same time. Through the combination of The Office and Mike Judge’s perfectly-pitched 1999 classic Office Space, Goodmiller has entered a saturated area for modern comedy. Can he offer anything new?
Sadly, despite a wealth of elements that work in Admins, the answer is no. So while dull conference calls, scapegoating and canteen pranks all feel convincing, everything we see here has been done before. Aside from Mike Judge, Goodmiller’s biggest influence is Kevin Smith, and in particular his classic Clerks. The dialogue in Admins has Smith’s fingerprints all over it: rude, down-to-earth and vaguely nerdy. One conversation about Monopoly feels like an attempt at the Return of the Jedi conversation from Clerks, while the film also has its very own Jay and Silent Bob in the form of Jake and Rob. Writers Eric Espejo and Korosh Karimi are hardly the first to be influenced by Smith, but they fail to absorb those influences and make something new.
Many of the jokes in the script fall on deaf ears too. There’s nothing wrong with using crude humour as your base, but it has to feature some wit and intelligence on top of it. This is all too often not the case, and the drive to be edgy is downright damaging: gags about rape and homophobic slurs might have worked for some audiences in the mid-90s, but more should be expected of a film released in 2017.
All of which would normally be enough to dismiss Admins, but luckily there is enough likeable stuff here to stop it sinking under the weight (or lack thereof) of its weak script. This is a fantastically well-directed film; Goodmiller’s use of the camera makes what could have been a televisual experience feel genuinely filmic, supported by some appropriate indie music by Madus. The relationships between the characters feels real, too: they are all believably odious, but Jay Saunders and Rebecca Wahls in particular carry enough charm to stop that being an issue. On best friend duty however, Doug Henderson does his best to join his co-stars on that level, but the attitudes and behaviour of his character—he is never the butt of the jokes—let him down.
There’s no doubt that Goodmiller is in need of finding a convincing voice of his own in the future. But his technical expertise is bright enough to suggest that he could be going places if he can find a script that fits him more effectively.