The Efficiency Expert
1992 Directed by Mark Joffe. Starring Anthony Hopkins, Ben Mendelsohn, Alwyn Kurts, Toni Collette, Rebecca Rigg.
REVIEWED By Pamela Bruce, Fri., Dec. 4, 1992
During the 1960s in Australia, there were periods of labor unrest due to changes made by various industries to modernize and/or increase profits at the expense of jobs. These changes were often instigated through the advice of highly-paid consultants known as “efficiency experts” who derived their opinions from cold facts and figures, rather than from the compassion of dignity and respect. It is within this time and environment that The Efficiency Expert is set -- a quaint, gratifying little film about discovering/rediscovering true, basic human needs from the vantage point of two separate generations and social classes. Hopkins (the ever-versatile actor he is) portrays efficiency expert Wallace -- a low-keyed, but keen consultant who is hired by the owner (Kurts) of (no kidding) Balls Moccasins and Satin Quilted Loungewear to gently nudge the family-run business onto the fast track of modernization, and out of a Never-Never-Land from the slow-paced good old days where ambition, technology, and progress take a back seat to camaraderie and genuine pleasure from one's work. In his personal life, however, Wallace is too efficient, for he is completely unable to step out of his consultant robot mode and as a result, has alienated his wife and family. Parallel to Wallace's personal situation is a young, second-generation worker at Balls (Mendelsohn), who has a crush on and enthusiastically pursues the owner's pretty, but fickle daughter (Rigg), only to eventually alienate the genuine affections of his co-worker and longtime girlfriend (Collette). With flawless production and costume design by Chris Kennedy and Tess Schofield, coupled with sparse (which is unfortunate) musical selections of the Sixties, Joffe's film seamlessly captures the period from the perspective of down under. Joffe's film also falls into the category of the recent wave of other Australian films that flirt with realism (Sweetie and Dingo are some examples) through major utilization of “natural” actors who credibly color the mise-en-scene with interesting and often humorous detail. Yet, I will admit that The Efficiency Expert is at times predictable, and yes, there is a happy ending. So cynics, beware -- art imitating life doesn't always have to be a downer.