Movie Review: Office revenge turns comically bloody for the Belgian “Employee of the Month”

“Employee of the Month” is a dark Belgian workplace comedy in the tradition of “Nine to Five” and “Horrible Bosses.”

Yes, the title’s been used to death, even in French — “L’employée du mois.” But this crisp and ever-co-conveniently murderous farce demonstrates that revenge can be served hot or cold, and as messy as is necessary, just so long as you have the proper cleaning products at hand to tidy up afterwards.

Inès has been with EcoCleanPro so long she’s on her seventh pet goldfish named Jean-Pierre, each succeeding fish kept in the tank in her office. She practically runs the place, which is as unjust as the misnomer of calling the foyer where she takes calls and solves all problems an “office.”

Inès, played by Jasmina Douieb, used to have a real office. But somebody brought in above her took that. She started as a secretary and has the title “paralegal,” and does much more than that. She’s gone 17 years without a raise, as the patronizing men who run the place, and even the custodian, do quite well for themselves.

She is ignored, dismissed, pranked and has every menial job dumped on her, even by the custodian. Sure, she’s noticed it and borne it all with an even temper and tidy (she’s always cleaning) efficiency.

But the presence of a new college intern, Melody (Laeticia Mampaka), daughter of the former cleaning lady there, kind of throws the injustice of it all into sharp relief.

She can’t expect her smarmy, lazy boss (Peter Van den Begin) to do right by her, as she’s cheapened herself — in his eyes — for too long. The honcho from corporate may be a woman (Laurence Bibot), but she’s just as venal, callous and greedy as the men.

If we know our downtrodden working woman/man tropes, we just know this tyranny will not stand. But…but…but, it was an ACCIDENT. I SWEAR.

Now this fastidious, cleaning-obsessed “employee of the month EVERY month (in French with English subtitles)” has a body and blood stains to remove and a scheme to hatch with her incredulous, faintly contemptuous and yet culpable intern.

Inès, who lives her life by the Latin motto, “Mens sana in corpore sano,” has to put all she knows about EcoCleanPro’s product line to work as her office devolves into a body count.

Director and co-writer Véronique Jadin is covering familiar ground — injustices and humiliations pile up, rough JUSTICE is comically served. So she doesn’t waste any time getting around to it. This vengeance comedy practically skips by. Sure, she leans on plot conveniances and contrivances to facilitate that, but that’s of little consequence.

Douieb makes Inès a loyal company woman to the core, even as bodies and complications pile up, infuriating Melody even as she’s mentoring her.

“Even in times of crisis,” she teaches, picking up another call in mid-body-disposal, “remember, the CUSTOMER always comes first.”

Jadin and co-writer Nina Vanspranghe go Neanderthal in their depictions of the rank sexism of this workplace, the dated “men get to go to lunch and drink, Inès must eat at her desk” abuses, which cross over into sexual harassment.

The caricatures are almost cartoonishly broad and there’s little else that’s subtle happening here.

But Douieb, Mampaka, Begin and Philippe Résimont — as the smug, late-to-the-scene sexist cop who takes over the case and brings his patronism with him — make murder comic and help this “Employee” get a dirty job done, and tidy up afterwards.

Rating: unrated, violence, vulgarisms

Cast: Jasmina Douieb, Laetitia Mampaka, Peter Van den Begin, Alex Vizorek, Laurence Bibot and Ingrid Heiderscheidt

Credits: Directed by Véronique Jadin, scripted by Véronique Jadin and Nina Vanspranghe. A Film Movement release.

Running time: 1:17


About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
This entry was posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news. Bookmark the permalink.