EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH (L’employée du mois), directed by Véronique Jadin and written by Véronique Jadin and Nina Vanspranghe, is a dark comedy about model employee Inés (Jasmina Douieb). But after her boss Patrick (Peter Van den Begin) denies her a raise, the situation spirals, and Inés, with the help of intern trainee Melody (Laetitia Mampaka), works together to cover up a crime. Jasmina Douieb and Laetitia Mampaka shine with hilarious rapport, making EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH a comical, infinitely rewatchable joyride.
Jobs are often just boys’ clubs, filled with men that never matured past fart jokes and penis art. This is the unfortunate job Inés works at, and in 17 years of employment at EcoClean, she has never received a raise. Inés is soft-spoken and unassertive, so the men on the job, even the janitor, look down on and mistreat her. Things take a turn when intern Melody. Sometimes seeing how someone else views a job can help you realize the environment is toxic. After suffering indignities on the job and a couple of pharmaceutical handouts, Inés starts to snap.
Jasmina Douieb plays the role of the timid lone woman on the job to a tee. It takes a toll when being surrounded by people who treat you as lesser in the workplace. Jasmina also does an excellent job showing Inés coming out of her shell. The standout performance is Laetitia Mampaka because her expressions scream “these moronic white folks” at every turn. Her character views Inés with equal parts pity and disgust that she puts up with the treatment. That is why she laughs when Inés instructs her on what to do if she wants a career at EcoClean.
The music helps the comedy as the situation spirals out of control. But the basis of the humor stems from reality. Jobs are often oppressive, racist, sexist environments that tell people to be grateful they are being exploited. The best comedy sets its roots in universal human experiences, then introduces the fantastical and extreme. Like Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break from 2021, EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH does this.
In the film, all the men lord over Inés, yet Patrick’s boss is Anna Nilsson (Laurence Bibot), and the financial inspector, Inspector Van Duyne (Ingrid Heiderscheidt), is another woman. The men also portray that same smirky condescension to both women, albeit they mask it better to avoid repercussions. Power does not mean equality because people just hide their biases.
There is a racial undercurrent throughout because everyone, save for Melody, is white. The white men barely notice Melody, a young Black lady, beyond saying they like her mom, Miriam, who was the cleaning lady for their office. Inés herself makes ignorant references to race, showing despite the tragic ease, a person can suffer from another’s ignorance yet still dole out ignorance to another demographic. EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH looks at women’s experiences according to race, size, and age with levity.
“Employee of the Month” is a worthless reward that jobs dole out rather than paying and treating their employees better. As kids, receiving a certificate for good behavior felt like a big deal, and jobs capitalize on that mindset that a piece of paper is all the reward a person needs. EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH takes a comedic approach to the toxic workplace and the wish for an accident to befall the boss.
EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH had its online World Premiere at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.