What does a lifetime of service get you? That’s what Inès (Jasmina Douieb) wants to find out. As the long-time office manager for EcoCleanPro Cleaning Supplies, she’s the only woman on staff in this very sexist office. She does whatever it takes to keep things running, even simply replacing toilet paper her male co-workers can’t seem to do themselves. After the regional manager’s visit reveals abysmal numbers in gender pay equity at EcoCleanPro, Inès wants her dedication to pay off with a raise, leading to all hell breaking loose.
Véronique Jadin’s black comedy takes no prisoners when it comes to satirising the mundaneness of office work while also shedding a sharp light on gender inequality within the workplace. If you have or currently work within a bland office, there are moments in Employee of the Month where you begin to wonder if certain situations have been lifted straight from your brain. For example, who hasn’t had a boss they wish came to an unfortunate demise?
The strength of Jadin’s film is that it could feature no horror elements and still work very well as a film. We see this type of misogyny that Inès must go through and how that culture runs through a business from top to bottom. Add into that the general awkwardness of having colleagues who think they are better than you and are not afraid to show it at its cringe-inducing finest.
Importantly added into this mix is the character of Melody, a new intern to the company and female but also black. Jadin doesn’t shy away from the fact that there are almost two levels of discrimination going on in the corporate culture. Inès suffers because she is a woman in a male-dominated business, whereas she has at least a higher status than Melody. The latter has clearly had the misfortune of having to navigate a racist and misogynistic environment her whole life.
Employee of the Month could easily lose its way by either being too straight with the topic at hand or far too absurdist. Yet, somehow it toes that careful line where we can feel for the characters being victimised whilst also laughing at the farcical horror and comedy surrounding it. Make no mistake, pulling that off is no mean feat, and Jadin and co-writer Nina Vanspranghe do so with great ease.
Jasmina Doujeb is infectious throughout, as we see her down-trodden character grow more and more as she encounters each chaotic scenario, letting out all of that angst that is riddled within. You want her to take out everyone who has wronged her; 17 years she has put up with this in that office, she deserves better and when the blood begins to flow, we begin to see a woman unchained.
However, with the story so focused on Inès, we do not get too much fleshing out of the rest of the cast. Perhaps that is the point, to have the light finally shone on the one person in the office who has been ignored for so long. Regardless, it would have been far better for us to know more about the men she works with than the paper-thin characters we are presented with.
Employee of the Month shines brightest when it focuses on the small observations, letting us into the life of not only this one but many around the world. This is a film that will work wonders with company, though maybe don’t watch it at a work event. Sharp comedy from beginning to end, Jadin makes sure to put her message firmly across.
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