“L’employée du mois” (“Employee of the Month”)
Screened at the Gene Siskel Film Center Chicago European Union Film Festival (0.5/5); Letterboxd (0.5/5), Imdb.com (1/10)
It’s hard to convey my level of disappointment (and disgust) when it comes to this perfectly dreadful movie. As one of the pictures I was most looking forward to seeing at the Gene Siskel Film Center Chicago European Union Film Festival, I walked out thoroughly appalled by what I had just watched. What should have been a screwball dark comedy with a premise loosely based on elements from the classic workplace farce “9 to 5” (1980) and the long-running hit TV sitcom The Office somehow managed to find ways to completely miss the mark from start to finish. To begin with, as a picture that’s supposed to be a comedy, it simply wasn’t funny, with virtually every bit failing to land. Then there was the pacing, which was far too laborious for a story that should have moved by at breakneck speed. But, perhaps most importantly, writer-director Véronique Jadin doesn’t appear to have a handle on what distinguishes macabre humor from nasty, mean-spirited poor taste. I can’t believe how many times during the picture I caught myself saying “There’s absolutely nothing funny about that.” And, even if this production were meant to be a goofy, gory tale a la movies like “Raw” (2016) or “The Columnist” (“De kuthoer”) (2019), it’s not nearly campy, creative or playfully over the top enough to be able to pull off that feat. What’s more, the film’s attempts at making statements about equal pay, toxic masculinity and sexual harassment in the workplace are far too obvious and heavy-handed, expressing sentiments that virtually anyone save for those who’ve spent years living in a cave should readily be able to recognize without being beaten over the head. Thankfully, the only saving grace here is the picture’s mercilessly short 1:18:00 runtime, but even that feels eons longer than it actually is. I suppose the most troubling thing I find about this offering, however, is that I actually heard audience members laughing during this travesty. It made me wonder about people these days and how they could possibly see the humor in any of this. There’s a big difference between a deft touch and a sledgehammer approach, even in dark comedies, but the filmmaker apparently doesn’t recognize it, and that shows in her work.