By Mark Ziobro
Written and directed by Adam Davis, “Broken Ceiling” examines the corporate hierarchy, albeit in a fantastical way. It revolves around a tyrant of a boss and three less than willing employees who are called to play in his game in order to get ahead. When it becomes apparent, however, that they can never get ahead, it comes less as a shock that the senior manager pulls a stunt on a conference call to get his boss, Ken’s, attention. It becomes more of a shock when Ken’s forever-assistant pulls a gun. It’s a credit that this film, with runs just at one hour and thirty minutes, makes the latter call for attention its pièce de résistance, whereby its perpetrator is not cast as a villain, but merely one shedding light on secrets and passovers long overdue.
For an independent feature filmed in one room, “Broken Ceiling’s” greatest achievement is that it’s able to hold our attention for its entire run. This is a credit to its cinematography and acting, both of which are pristine. Its four actors form a chemistry with each other that takes its entire duration to become apparent; so much so, by the time we see Ken (Regen Wilson) speaking to Angela (Karan Kendrick) in his sun-soaked LA office about the reason she was passed over yet again for promotion, we see the epidemiology of this office as viral. It’s no wonder morale runs so low when all of its associates hit their head on its ‘broken ceiling.’ Manger Tyler (Rene Jameson) and newly hired Garett (Torran Kitts), round out the cast.
What is intriguing about “Broken Ceiling” is that it’s written less like a film and more like a tragic play, and is filmed accordingly. This play is a tragedy, not a comedy, and its actors work well with its material. The MVP here has to be Wilson, who is confident, smooth, and fast-talking, just like his character. He is tasked with heaps of dialogue in this film, the most impressive a monologue as he recounts a story of a fight he had with his wife and the horrific ramifications, which runs minutes long and in which Wilson never stumbles. He’s backed by performances from both Jameson and Kitts that are apt.
Jameson in particular stands out: he must go from passed over employee to frightened victim, to empowerment in a short span. It’s a credit to the script that he’s brought to this stage by Ken’s black assistant Angela. “Broken Ceiling” doesn’t out and out make a case for unfair racial treatment in the corporate strategy; but then again, it doesn’t really have to.
I feel remiss not to have mentioned Jay Disney, who plays the telephonic “Mr. Bradford” with zest and zeal, appearing at once by-the-books, business-like, and humorless, even if he does become something more by the end. The three men and one woman attempt to sell him on becoming a sponsor for a new Hollywood picture. In a film dominated by visual actors, Disney, who ran the risk of fading into the background, instead becomes a standout.
Of course, “Broken Ceiling” is about more than business, and deals with themes of tyrannical business practices, nepotism, and racism, but to comment at length on these is to take away from the experience of the film. One must watch to see these unfold – not just as a reason to keep the plot sacred, but to take part in their unfolding. By the film’s end you feel part of this corporate structure, and I have to say, it doesn’t feel good. However, it feels authentic, and with careful acting, direction, and writing, Davis makes you feel like you’re there and paints his picture fully and completely. “Broken Ceiling” has very few missteps and entertains as both a well-produced and thoughtful picture