The Teacher’s Lounge (2011) – By Matthew Saliba

"The Teacher’s Lounge" is a "docu-film" by jack-of-all-trades filmmaker Marvin Suarez. I’m not quite sure what a "docu-film" is but I can only assume that it’s a euphemism used to explain the numerous times in which we see reflections of the camera and lights throughout the course of the piece. But we’ll come back to that later.

The film stars Deja Aramburu as Mary, a lazy teacher who spends her time sleeping on the job instead of preparing her test scores as requested by her boss (played with real enthusiasm by Timothy J. Cox). Later on that day, Mary is called in to a meeting with her boss who informs her that he’s had his eye on her (in more ways than one) and has decided to promote her. This promotion, however, doesn’t come without a price and Mary must choose whether her dignity and self-respect are worth throwing away for the sake of a big fat raise.

The general consensus when it comes to storytelling is that there are only so many tales you can tell before you inevitably reach a dead end and must find new and innovative ways to tell the same stories again. There are filmmakers like David Lynch who pull this off with mind-blowing results and then there are filmmakers who are perfectly content with regurgitating the same concepts over again without even trying to present them in a new light.

Unfortunately, "The Teacher’s Lounge" is a film that falls under the latter category.

Granted, as a short film there’s only so much story you can tell within the time frame you’re working in, but this is a film that doesn’t even try to reinvent the wheel. We’ve seen this story time and again and while another film about sexual harassment at the office is enough to send anyone’s eyes rolling toward the back of their heads, I was hoping we would get some kind of twist at the end.

There are many things Suarez could have done with his short. When Mary is threatened into taking her new position for fear her boss will destroy her name and reputation if she doesn’t, perhaps there could have been a moment where Mary actually takes the time to ponder this decision and what it would mean for her life. This could have led to a montage where we catch glimpses of her home life. Is she in a relationship? Does she have kids? How would working for a boss who clearly lusts after her affect her family dynamic at home? Here’s a kicker, maybe the prospect of working for her boss creates a sexual awakening her. Maybe her husband/boyfriend hasn’t paid attention to her in ages and along comes this man at work who’s not only promising her a life of financial stability but one of sexual fulfillment the likes of which she isn’t receiving with her partner. This excites her immensely and when the montage ends and we cut back to her response, she says, "Yes, I accept." And then boom, fade to black, the end. The film ends on a somewhat ambiguous note but it leaves the audience pondering Mary’s fate and a film that has people talking is a film worth watching indeed.

But "The Teacher’s Lounge" is as predictable as you imagine a film like this being. It also has a very rushed quality about it, which makes me wonder whether this was made as part of a 24/48-hour filmmaking competition. It would explain the rather amateur approach to the film’s cinematography (as mentioned we see the reflection of the camera and lights multiple times) as well as the simplicity of the plot.

To be fair, the film does have a few things going for it. As previously mentioned, Timothy J. Cox turns in a wonderfully slimy performance as the boss. The score by Joe Vitale, Jr. is also quite good at building tension throughout the piece. And contrary to my earlier criticism of the camerawork in the film, there is a beautifully-framed three shot in which the Boss is having a conversation with Robert (another teacher in the film played by Sabar Banks) in the foreground of the frame while Mary is slowly walking down a hallway towards the men on the left-hand side of the frame.

To watch the film and see other examples of Marvin Suarez’s work, you can visit his website at: http://www.marvinsuarez.com