Review: Employee of the Month is a fun farce from Jerome Commandeur

By Cris Kennedy
August 5 2022 - 7:30pm

Employee of the Month. M. 85 minutes. Three stars.

This goofball French farce sees a public servant hang on to his cushy government job by any means possible when the French government starts slashing their civil service, in a film big on laughs and cultural fun-pokery.



Life in the French civil service is perfect for Vincent Peltier (Jerome Commandeur). His government job for the Limoges Water and Forestry Department provides him with everything a man might want.

Some of those wants include the freely-given graft some of the hunters and gatherers he approves licenses for hand him under the table - grouse and quail and truffles.

The civil service gravy train has women lining up to marry him, but Vincent is a single man.

This becomes his undoing when Minister for Employment Roselyn Bacheron (Gerard Darmon) announces a series of cost-cutting measures, starting with wide-spread redundancies.

At at stop-work meeting to announce who will be made redundant, Vincent's boss runs through a list of the workers considered indispensable (the French title to the film is closer to this word), starting with police officers and ending with married folk who have children to support.

On the chopping block, Vincent is called into the office of Isabelle Bailliencourt (Pascale Arbillot), the Ministry's chief axe-swinger.

But Vincent will not accept the redundancy, will not accept the cheque offered. Instead, following the advice of his union boss, he demands to be redeployed to another position.

Frustrated by Vincent's impertinence, Isabelle finds a series of awful jobs to move Vincent to - including one assignment to the North Pole defending research scientists from polar bear attacks, and as an officer at France's most violent prison.

A scene from Employee of the Month. Picture: Maslow Entertainment

Unfortunately for the Ministry, Vincent thrives at every awful job they place him at, and even finds love at the polar research station with the Swedish scientist, Eva (Laetitia Dosch).

There is a ton of silliness up on screen that makes this film a great delight from start to finish.

In the same vein as Flying High, there is always something to look for in the background, and particularly in scenes at Vincent's Water and Forestry Department, where the public service is depicted as an idyll, with the staff sitting around drinking and playing cards and enjoying free long-distance phone calls.

As both writer and director, Jerome Commandeur has a gift for the arcane and the obvious, honed from a few decades on screen.

His comedy doesn't bite too hard, but is at its best when Vincent follows Eva to Sweden, and then the cross-cultural farce generates near-constant giggles.

For his screenplay, Commandeur has adapted the hit Italian film Quo Vado? As his own leading man, Commandeur is pleasantly unlikeable as Vincent, more an anti-hero than a hero. His ensemble cast of performers don't overplay their hands, and he even ropes in Gerard Depardieu for a cameo.

While writing about film is my passion, I'm sorry to say that it doesn't really pay the bills, and so I have a real-life job myself as a public servant.

People who live, or work, outside the "Canberra Bubble" probably think this film's portrayal of life in the civil service is an accurate reflection of the public service gravy train.



I only wish there was so much delightful laziness and joie de vivre in the life of the modern Australian civil servant as is parodied in this film.