Veronique Jadin’s Employee of the Month will, and should, draw comparisons to office-centric violence like Cindy Sherman’s Office Killer, James Gunn’s The Belko Experiment, and Joe Lynch’s Mayhem. Critiques of office culture through a genre (in this case, horror) lens have been around for years, but Jadin’s story of a put-upon woman who is taken past her breaking point feels like well-executed treading of familiar ground. She takes what could be a frustrated workers’ daydream of really showing their obnoxious colleagues what it’s like, and realizes it into a funny, surprisingly poignant indictment of corporate life.
Ines (Jasmina Douieb) is a devoted employee of EcoCleanPro, a company in the business of selling cleaning products. She clearly believes in the company’s vision, even when no one else seems to, and invests far more time and effort into her work despite being recognized and certainly compensated for neither. While working as the company’s human resources, legal, and administrative departments all at once, she’s passed over for raises, promotions, and even denied the privilege of joining her colleagues for lunch. Further, she’s constantly being ordered to do menial tasks that are far below even her meager pay grade.
Fed up, Ines finally gets up the confidence to demand a raise from her exceedingly smarmy boss Patrick (Peter Van den Begin), but after being talked down to and nearly assaulted by him, an amusingly slapsticky series of events results in an accident that leaves Patrick dead. Spunky and sarcastic new trainee Melody (Laetitia Mampaka) walks in at precisely the wrong moment, leaving the only two women at EcoCleanPro as accomplices to the crime. The pair must then cover their tracks, snowballing the violence with hilarious and sharp-witted results.
Jardin’s deadpan script has a way of making what should be cliche feel fresh. It’s smart and takes the comedy to incredibly dark places when it wants to, but manages to keep a knowing wink ready for when things start to get a little too heavy. Douieb’s Ines anchors the film beautifully, and manages to convey the character’s shift in attitude with skill. Mampaka’s Melody is just the right amount of spunky, and the chemistry between her and Ines makes you want to root for them, no matter how dirty their deeds turn out to be.
Employee of the Month manages, even for a slapstick dark comedy on a tiny set, to make a strong statement about the kind of systemic sexism that plagues corporate life. There’s no subtlety here about not only the way Ines is treated, but how women in general are both quietly and openly held down in the workplace. And not just workplaces, but schools and institutions as well, as Employee of the Month displays how this sexism creeps into nearly every aspect of daily life. If you’re ready to receive that message, wrapped up in a package that feels like Mike Judge by way of Blumhouse, you might want to put this one on your viewing resume.
Employee of the Month is available as part of the Tribeca At Home online festival, running from Jun 8-19, 2022.