It goes without saying, but sexism sucks. It shouldn’t be controversial to say that a woman should make as much money as a man, yet it is to some people. Workplace discrimination is terrible, plain and simple. So it’s pretty cathartic that Employee of the Month puts audiences in the shoes of a woman with a bunch of boorish male coworkers and superiors as she at first accidentally, then intentionally, kills them. If you’ve ever hated your boss or been tokenized because you’re a woman, this is the movie for you.
Employee of the Month
Director: Veronique Jaden
Release Date: June 9, 2022 (Tribeca Film Festival)
Ines has worked at a cleaning product company for 17 years and has had enough of it. Her four other co-workers operate the business like it’s a college frat house and give each other pay raises and benefits, except for Ines. They belittle her, make sex jokes at her, have her take on the jobs they don’t want to do (including janitorial work), insult her when she does go above and beyond, and make her feel insignificant. When Ines decides to finally speak up and ask for a raise, through a complete accident, her boss is killed because of her actions, so it’s up to Ines and her new intern Melody to cover it up or risk jail time.
There’s something deviously funny about watching Ines going from being mild-mannered and meek to willing to murder someone over bad coffee. Employee of the Month is all about empowering Ines and instilling confidence in her while she enacts karmic justice on her misogynistic colleagues. She even plays into these stereotypes to placate two of her colleagues because they’re that stupid and think that a giant pool of blood on the ground was just Ines having her period. There’s a lot of vindication that you feel as the movie progresses and Ines and Melody tear their company to the ground over the course of a single day. This leads to a dark comic charm on display for most of the movie.
At first, the humor comes across like the satirical Office Space with Ines being your Milton stand-in. She’s constantly shat upon and you just know she’s going to eventually break. When it inevitably does happen, then Employee of the Month morphs into a farce. The comedy just becomes purely ridiculousness where I was audibly singing a famous Mystery Science Theater 3000 bit. The humor most certainly isn’t for everyone, but as it straddles between being comedically over-the-top and depressingly realistic, that’s exactly why the film is labeled a dark comedy.
There are some minor subplots throughout the film, but they come across as afterthoughts. There’s a subplot about money laundering the company is engaging in that crops up every now and then, but it feels unimportant compared to the gruesome murders taking place. While Ines is definitely the lead character of the film, I would have preferred if more attention was given to her intern/voice of reason, Melody, as her contributions to the film are decidedly more mixed.
Melody is likable enough, often trying to assist Ines with her cover-up operations. Sometimes her comic timing is a bit forced and fake, but she manages to get some laughs with her reactions to the ongoing clean-up procedures. Then the movie decides to drop a bombshell revelation about her character that doesn’t ring true in its execution. For a movie about female empowerment, it chickens out on actually going into darker territory and trying to moralize why it doesn’t want to. If this movie is about karmic justice being enacted upon men in positions of power and superiority, then Melody’s arc is resolved with a shoulder shrug and only barely meets the bar. She does get some resolution, but it doesn’t feel earned, as does most of the ending.
I enjoyed how a running character from the first third of the film, a finance police officer, is reintroduced in a way that echoes Ines’ conflict, but Employee of the Month doesn’t really lean into that dynamic. It instead tries to create every possible reason to give Ines and Melody a happy ending despite how little logical sense it makes. I get that Employee of the Month is more interested in the thematic throughline of the film and not so much the plot point by plot point minutiae, but the ending just kind of happens without a strong moral conclusion.
Lackluster ending aside, Employee of the Month still manages to tell a pretty funny comedy about overcoming gender discrimination. The scenarios that Ines and Melody are put in are bizarre and incredulous enough to be entertaining, while still keeping the moral center of the movie intact. It doesn’t go as far as I’m sure most viewers would have liked, leading to an ending that doesn’t feel earned, but the end result is still a workplace comedy that had me laughing more often than not.