Fantasia 2022 Review: EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH, A Pointed Workplace Comedy

Contributing Writer; Toronto, Canada (@triflic)
Fantasia 2022 Review: EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH, A Pointed Workplace Comedy
Inès deserves a raise. She is the poster girl for EcoClean products. Literally. When she started at the company as a bright young thing, she was the model in the catalogue, the booth babe. It seems mostly men make the purchases for bulk cleaning equipment, and a pretty face goes a long way towards sales. Seventeen years later, she is still diligently and enthusiastically grinding away in the HR department, completely taken for granted, the butt of tired sexist jokes, and other casual abuse from her coworkers.
 
She is the only women in the sales office for the company and seems to do the majority of the things that need to be done on top of her regular duties. She makes the coffee, feeds - or replaces - the fish in the aquarium (one of many hiding-in-plain-sight setups), and makes sure theres enough toilet paper on hand for her abusers to be able the wipe their own asses. She is ignored, practically dismissed, at the company wide meeting, even when the subject is about the lack of gender diversity and pay equity in their branch. 
 
I had a previous boss (a Ph.D chemist and female) who displayed a porcelain figure in her office of a person under a tree looking up at a bird which said, “Go ahead, everyone else does.” Being stuck in the middle of a corporation, she got it. I get it now. While Employee of the Month is a Belgian film, its outrage at sexism in the workplace likely would resonate in any culture in the world. It is a truism that when running a business if you do not value your people, your organization will eventually die. Véronique Jadin takes that to wickedly flamboyant extremes in this tightly constructed take-down (or is it uprising?) of office culture. 
 
When Inès does not receive her salary increase, she practically quivers in her mauve power-suit (with matching shoes), as all the men go out to celebrate at an expensive lunch, leaving her with the new intern, Melody, to shred paper. After a few stiff drinks from a bottle hidden in the office, and popping one of her bosses Viagra pills, she is ready to swill in her own apathy. Melody, a young woman of colour only there to pad her university entrance paperwork, looks on in slightly bemused horror. 
 
Through a series of (unfortunate) events, her boss suffers a horrible accident. This, along with the viagra which is just kicking in, shocks Inès out of her personal funk. And an an idea arises: Maybe ushering in a change of staff, with extreme prejudice, would help her rise in the company. Fortune favours the bold, right?
 
Employee of the Month takes the classic situational comedy and mixes in busts its heads (and glass ceilings) in a few times. It lets its heroine flourish into her own with each kill. The body disposal issue is no big deal. Inès has been doing all the cleaning, fixing, pitching for EcoClean, who (fortunately) formulates new products in the basement. Plenty of strong acid and disinfectants are at hand to get rid of the mess. On a side note, props to the writers for letting her use triflic acid, a super-acid used to synthesize new chemicals more than than to actually clean. Inès, when she mixes it into the formulation like a witches brew, she becomes a new person, even if she cannot eliminate all of the toxic masculinity from her world. 
 
Writer/director Jadin piles on more plot elements, characters, and tropes, than one might think possible: embezzlement schemes, cocky detectives, even a girl-boss consultant. They are often broad caricutures, but it works in the specific little whirlygig she has built. The office front-door chime (which amusingly sounds exactly like the Toronto Transit Commissions ‘doors are closing’ signal) never seems to stop ringing.That this is all accomplished in under 80 minutes, is a testament to crisp, clean, craft. Employee of the Month a sitcom on steroids…er…Viagra.  
 
And yet, the film never takes its gaze off the anti-heroines personal journey of empowerment. Jasmina Douieb, a Belgian stage actress and theatre director herself, demonstrates a marvellous transformation from corporate wallflower to wily femme fatale. She does some awful things, Inès can be awful herself, power corrupting and all that, but you root for her (and Melody) to succeed nonetheless, because they make a fun team, and their journey feels just. The whole scenario is over the top, constantly threatening to go off the rails, but in the end it sticks the landing, right down to the ironic pink credits. If you want to sweep the steps clean, start at the top.”


L'employe du mois

Director(s)
  • Véronique Jadin
Writer(s)
  • Véronique Jadin
  • Nina Vanspranghe
Cast
  • Peter Van den Begin
  • Philippe Résimont
  • Jasmina Douieb
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Alex VizorekBelgiumComedyEcoCleanEmployee Of The MonthEmpowermentFantasiaFemaleJasmina DouiebL'employée du moisLaetitia MampakaLaurence BibotNina VanspranghePeter Van den BeginVéronique JadinViolenceWorkplacePhilippe RésimontCrime

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