Tag Archives: Unemployment

Two Days, One Night (2014)

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You know how some movies feel so real it’s like you’re watching a documentary? Well, this is one of those films. It’s not for everybody, because it’s sllooww, and by slow I mean straight-up kitchen sink realism with virtually no frills. But what I really like about Two Days, One Night is how close it hit to home for me. I grew up with a sporadically depressed mother with very low self-esteem and I started suffering from severe Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder when I was five, and was put on medication for clinical depression in my early teens.

This movie understands the effects of depression on people suffering from the illness as well as their loved ones. Marion Cotillard plays Sandra, an often infuriating but utterly plausible character. Sandra has just been fired from her job at the factory and prepares to sink back into the abyss of depression, taking long afternoon naps and gobbling Xanax like a hardcore druggie.

Sandra is depressed because without her job to sustain her, she will have have nothing to distract her from hopeless sadness and she will be on the dole, but mostly because the majority of her co-workers voted against her in favor of a substantial raise. Shortly after her lay-off, it comes to light that the foreman at the factory, Jean-Marc (Oliver Gourmet,) most likely intimidated the other workers into screwing Sandra over. Now, she has two days to convince the employees to give up their raise so she can return to her job at the company.

Sandra has a devoted husband (Fabrizio Rongione) and two beautiful kids (Pili Groine and Simon Caudry, ) but she is deeply unhappy and endlessly self-defeating. She also undermines her husband’s support at every turn. Even  more concerning than her depression and suicidality is her casual abuse of prescription medication. Both her misuse of drugs and her unhappiness is the proverbial elephant in the room. We can tell immediately something is not right in this household, her husband Manu comes home from work and runs upstairs when she doesn’t immediately respond to his shouted greetings as if her half-expects to find her hanging from the ceiling.

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Marion Cotillard owns this role. She superbly portrays the exhaustion and resignation of being clinically depressed, when everything, well… sucks, and nothing is good enough or fulfilling enough to make you laugh or even smile. The plot of this film is absurdly simple. but Cotillard and every other performance across the board makes it feel incredibly real. Sandra will piss you the fuck off half the time (even, or maybe even especially, if you see some of yourself in her) but you can feel her anguish like a flame burning the back of your hand.

Withholding spoilers, I was really surprised and pleased at how this movie ended. It’s not a conclusion you see coming but when the credits roll you realize it was the perfect way to wrap up the film. Thinking back on the plight of Sandra’s co-workers, I honestly don’t know what I would do if someone gave me that ultimatum on whether to keep a kind but slightly ineffectual co-worker on the team or earn a substantial raise. I would like to think I would pull through for Sandra, but then again who knows?

It wasn’t like these people were living in exorbitant wealth. They had kids to put through college, rooms to paint and renovate, bills to pay and food to put on the table. It’s hard to judge them, but at the same time, it’s hard not to, especially when you see how vulnerable Sandra is and how much she needs to keep her job. That’s the great thing about this movie; it doesn’t judge. The majority of these people aren’t sneering, bullying fat cats sitting on top of a massive fortune; they’re struggling to get by and support their blue collar families. In fact, they’re hardly mean at all, with the the marked exception of an older co-worker’s teenaged son, who’s a piece of work, and Jean-Marc, who’s just a total dick. But that’s realistic too. Not every one can be convivial and nice, just like not everybody is the equivalent of the high school bully who pantses you during gym.

Although this movie doesn’t have a whole lot of rewatch value in my opinion, it’s definitely worth watching once if you like kitchen sink realism and nuanced drama. Some people might be frustrated with the lack of empowerment of Cotillard’s character, but not every woman can be a superheroine. Sometimes, it’s enough just to survive. Again, Two Days, One Night is not a movie for everyone, but Cotillard’s performance is a genuine revelation, and even significant among the barrage of great performances we’ve seen lately, and are likely to see again.

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Axed (2012)

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As much as I would like to root for the little man, stick it to the Hollywood studios, and support this small-budget indie horror film, I cannot. All I can say is this- good God this movie is horrible. The budget is tiny, which shouldn’t be a problem, but it so much so that it becomes a distraction. The acting is mediocre. The plot is rife with holes. It’s a disaster. I’m sorry to be so blunt, but this movie isn’t really worth watching on streaming for free, let alone paying a rental price.

Middle-aged, venomously mean-spirited businessman Kurt Wendell (Jonathan Hansler) is fired from his job, much to his chagrin. At home, he’s making his family’s lives a living Hell- his long-suffering wife (Andrea Gordon,) who may be getting a little nookie on the side, his weak-willed, latently homosexual son (Christopher Rithin,) and his pouty daughter (Nicola Posener.)

To Kurt, his son is a pussy and his daughter’s a slut, and he detests his kids and his wife in equal measure. But Kurt has a plan- he schemes to take his family to a summer home for one last vacation, kill them, and then himself. The drama unfolds at the isolated house, where Kurt takes it upon himself to end his family’s complaints- once and for all.

Jonathan Hansler plays Kurt with manic chutzpah, but Jack Nicholson in “The Shining” he is not. Gordon comes off best as a wife and mother trapped in a loveless marriage. Rithin and Posener are tragically mediocre as beleaguered kids who are too stupid for their own good.

There’s a lack of logic in the script that becomes increasingly obvious by the 1/3rd point. In one scene, the daughter, Megan, unsuccessfully tries to untie a man her father’s taken captive while Dad’s outside. Earlier, her dad took her cell phone and made it all too obvious he was not going to let her leave alive.

Later, she reveals to her mother that she has a second cellphone, which is later taken from her and smashed by her murderously irate dad. The question I have is, why didn’t she call the police while her father was distracted rather than spending 10+ minutes trying to uselessly untie the prisoners constraints with her ineffectual soft little girly hands?

In another scene, the mother gets her kids in the car and tries to drive away but the car doesn’t start. Okay, we’ll accept the oldest horror cliché in the book, but not this- Mom, in all her infinite wisdom, has not locked the door to the driver’s side, leaving it all too easy for Kurt to pull it open and drag her out. I guess she thought her car was going to zoom off like “Need For Speed” and leave her homicidal hubby in the dust.

Grainy photography, poor effects, gaps in logic- “Axed” has all the telling signs of a first feature. A victim’s black eye looks all too fake, while the blows inflicted on the said prisoner are woefully artificial. Last but not least, we have Kurt himself, who is too vile and reprehensible to be a remotely likable or even empathisable character.

What are we supposed to say about a movie that features as one of it’s final plot points a teenaged girl flashing her bra and panties at her murderous father to distract him from killing her (can we say anything?) I think her exact words were “Come and get it, Daddy.” With a script this sad, I bet the filmmaker wishes he could  miracle himself into a time machine and undo the whole thing. I certainly would!

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