Screenwriter Daniel Handler, the evil genius behind the delightfully misanthropic children’s books by “Lemony Snicket,” here loosely adapts the opera Rigoletto — with film editor turned director Curtiss Clayton (Made) — and the result is malicious, ironic cruelty dealt with a deft and subtle hand. Verdi’s story of lust and revenge is transplanted to a sharky corporate realm — an obvious move, perhaps, but it’s played with such a wicked sense of the absurdity of desperate hierarchies and petty office meanness that it feels fresh. Bill Pullman (Igby Goes Down) — walking the same sublime, off-kilter tightrope of hyperreality he’s been dancing around on in recent roles — is Rick Olette, who oozes around a hotshot’s corner office yet seems to do nothing but surf the Web and torment prospective new underlings in brutal job interviews (including, in a gleefully vengeful cameo, the underappreciated Sandra Oh [Under the Tuscan Sun]). Rick both worships and despises his boss, Duke (Aaron Stanford: Spartan), who just happens to be having a steamy sex-chatroom affair with Rick’s teenaged daughter, Eve (Agnes Bruckner: Stateside), and that odd little triangle is the stage for a drama of cold, calculating interpersonal horror. And the most upsetting thing about it all, as tends to be the case in bitter explorations of sordid human pettiness, may be how little it actually affects any of those involved.
rated R for for sexual content and language
viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics