Employee of the Month – movie review

Vincent Peltier’s (Jerome Commandeur) life is on the line in the often-hilarious French comedy Employee of the Month. When travelling through the Ecuadorian jungle, he’s captured by a hostile tribe. It is up to the chief of the tribe (Jean-Louis Loca) – who doesn’t trust white people – to decide his fate and it looks like Peltier could be burned alive.

The chief wants to hear Peltier’s back story to determine whether he is worthy to cross the land where the tribe roams. And so it is that Peltier recounts the events that led up to that point. From a young age, like his father, Peltier dreamed of securing a public service job. Why? Because it is as cushy a form of employment as you could possibly get. The hours aren’t onerous, the pay is decent and the benefits are mouthwatering. And so he lands on his feet.

His parents are proud of him and he is courted by a woman whose dream is to marry a public servant. But after 16 years on the job, the unexpected happens. To save money the Public Service Minister, who is in line for a Cabinet post, announces job cuts. While many who fit certain categories can be reassigned in France, Peltier isn’t one of them. Still, with the help of a crafty union leader, Michel Gougnat (Christian Clavier), despite having a target on his back, Peltier finds a way around the system. Because he refuses to accept redundancy, a higher-ranking public servant, Inspector Isabelle Bailliencourt (Pascale Arbillot), has him traversing the globe undertaking highly undesirable jobs.

But try as she does to get him to sign on the dotted line to accept his payout, Peltier’s spirit won’t be broken. Each time he revels in his latest “assignment” the stakes are upped, until he lands a job in the remote wilderness where he is charged with protecting French scientists from attack by polar bears. While he falls for scientist Eva Brebant (Laetitia Dosch), the path to eternal bliss is anything but straight forward as the Ministry remains out to get him.

Employee of the Month is one of the funniest movies I’ve seen. It’s delightfully silly and far-fetched. It has charm, wit and joie de vivre. The circumstances dreamed up by the star, Jerome Commandeur – who, alongside Xavier Maingon, also wrote the piece and directs – are priceless. So, too, the one-liners gifted to the actors. Employee of the Month is evenly rib tickling throughout. Easy-going nonsense is piled upon easier going nonsense and yet it works magnificently. It is brilliant escapist entertainment, noteworthy also because of the acting of Commandeur and his comrades.

The more I saw, the more I enjoyed it. Employee of the Month is bright and breezy, and put a smile on my face.

Alex First

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