Review by Cole Groth
The COVID-19 pandemic has placed a sharp focus on how employees view work. We’ve grown much more aware of the divide between workers and bosses, making satires like Véronique Jadin’s Employee of the Month feel especially pertinent. This workplace comedy takes a dark twist, and while it becomes a bit too dour to be a fully enjoyable time, it still works as an excellent satire.
At a moderately large cleaning supply company, loyal worker Inés (Jasmina Douieb) works up the courage to ask for a raise. Unlike all of her male coworkers who have received countless raises, she’s continually denied one based on her lack of experience when she first came into the job. She’s saddled with the work of five different positions, offered the pay of half of one, and now has to train a new intern, Melody (Laetitia Mampaka). As she grows closer to burnout, the people around her become increasingly frustrating, boiling over to her boss’s accidental death, which Inés quickly tries to cover up, along with the help of Melody.
What follows after the first death is a series of hilarious kills of some truly terrible people. The script is thin in its characterization, with each male character being utterly despicable. It’s frustrating to listen to a bunch of pricks belittle Inés for 45 minutes, making the series of events that follows rather satisfying.
The highlight of the show is Douieb’s performance alongside Mampaka. The two are an unstoppable force between the old and new generations of workers. Douieb perfectly personifies the meek office worker, and Mampaka shows the more boisterous spirit of a younger group of workers. The two expertly contribute to the overall satirical tone and add a solid emotional depth.
At only 78 minutes long, Employee of the Month feels satisfyingly brisk. While much more must be said, it feels paced well enough without any fat. However, the third act is somewhat contrived and doesn’t allow the messages from earlier to breathe. The conclusion is satisfying, albeit silly. It’s easy to write off the screenplay as being too unrealistic, but it’s at least fun enough to avoid most criticism.
Director Véronique Jadin has previously directed short films with a dark tone, so it’s no surprise that she takes an extra dark spin on this satirical comedy. It almost feels mean-spirited at points because of the many deaths that Inés and Melody become involved in. There are many laughs, but some moments feel over-the-top and clash with the overall tone.
Some polishing to the script would’ve made Employee of the Month a much wittier experience. As it stands, Jadin has created a film that captures the feeling of the modern workplace with a dark and hilarious turn. It’s easily accessible for English speakers looking to expand into foreign films and will surely play well with fans of dark comedy or those who want to kill their boss.
Employee of the Month releases on VOD starting May 12.