'Employee of the Month' by Greg Coolidge Review: It was a different time

in Movies & TV Showslast year


I recently started watching a television series called Chuck. Its setup in the first season reminded me very much of something I recalled seeing before, though I knew the series was totally new to me. I had a look around in attempt to figure out just what I was connecting the series to only to remember it was the film Employee of the Month. I can't remember the first time I saw this film, but watching it again, it totally feels like a time capsule. Full of the old Hollywood soul that was found in simple narratives and lowbrow attempts at comedy that you just don't see these days out of fear of being offensive or just not targeting a wide enough demographic with the net the film casts. I was quite surprised to see that Employee of the Month had such aggressively low review scores from 2006, being a film that isn't great but definitely isn't terrible as critics suggest.

This era of Hollywood was one in which stories surrounded more regular people. Not the elites or the fortunate, but more so the average person. The retail workers that suffer day and night stacking shelves and dealing with other chaotic members of the public. Characters that are very much working and lower class; and in the comedy genre these characters are often sticking to the stereotypes within society, perhaps a little void of ambition. A bit messy in appearance. Very careless in an almost cool manner that allows them to glide through life with relative ease. These films at the time ended up being quite popular even if critics hated them, because they showed the mundane and difficult lives of most citizens, but highlighting them with some payoffs and aspects of achievement. Relatable even if a little farfetched and silly.

These days you don't quite catch that same aesthetic from Hollywood, as it turned to reboots and big franchise films. With stories that mostly pertain to very evidently fictional characters over characters very much cemented in some sort of relatable, believable lifestyle. Though the series side of things has somewhat filled that gap from time to time. But we should acknowledge that it's no coincidence that the largest series often display characters in everyday settings and situations. Friends, The Office, and Parks and Recreation come to mind.

Employee of the Month


Retail life has always been seen as sometbing mundane and void of soul. Heavy work that requires the least ambition and prospects but with long hours and stressful situations. The idea that retail work is often a trap, a job to get by only to pull you in and before you know it, the years have gone by as nothing changed. Many films have taken upon the depressing life of a retail worker, though the majority of these are within the comedy genre. Films that highlight the types of stereotyped characters in these environments and place various silly scenarios for them to engage in that mixes up things a little. After all, these people have to get through the day and night shifts somehow. Often enough, these films explore the idea of community, friendship groups that form at the workplace and help each other out, complaining about work and finding ways to get by. Sometimes showing the ways rivalries take form and turn people against each other.

Employee of the Month is a very simple film that showcases the less exciting area of retail work. Pulling on the loser tropes of the era. A single man living with his grandmother, working a dead end retail job and hanging around the various co-workers that have also been trapped in the retail lifestyle. Many of these characters having different backgrounds and ages. Each of them are nothing more than slackers with little more going on. Even as for the rival of the film, he's just another guy in the same position. Though the film's narrative relies on the idea of there being an employee of the month, with a long-running winner that never seems to get any competition. Here is where we can tell that Employee of the Month sits in a time capsule, incapable of being made in this very sensitive climate: Employee of the Month uses a woman new to the retail store almost as a trophy for whoever wins the next month. Being an attractive woman and with an apparent history of being attracted to employees of the month, it sends the characters into a deep competition in hopes of winning the girl. As you can tell, this wouldn't slide today.

However, being a comedy film, it relies on a pretty decent cast that you probably forgot existed by now. Mostly comedians from the era under various roles. These characters are either dumb, careless, or just a little weird which pushes the comedy forward. It reminded me a little bit of Napoleon Dynamite in parts for its more absurdist style of humour; though sometimes the humour isn't just in the dialogue and strange characters, but also a bit slapstick sometimes. Relying on physical actions to generate quick laughs. This isn't all tha frequent, but the film does have its fair share of attempts at generating laughs while juggling the story of an underachiever suddenly discovering his potential, now pushing to achieve something for once. It sort of stops being about the woman and instead a realisation of time wasted, with little to show for it. And while doing all of these things, it actually isn't that bad of a film.

The filmmaking really isn't that bad either. Shot on 35mm film and mostly taking place in and around the workplace, it actually looks pretty good. The colours are quite pleasing and the directing and cinematography aren't too bad. Especially when you factor in the budget, the film never really looks or feels like it's more on the cheap side. Perhaps back then Hollywood cared a bit more for what it would consider high risk projects these days. Perhaps influenced by similar ideas of the era such as Superbad, Clerks, Waiting... And many others that displayed the life of everyday people with crude humour and pop culture loving main characters. So that is to admit that this film is part of many as a result of the comedy genre taking a new turn around this time. Loosening up and starting to really consider the teen demographic. This does mean that Employee of the Month has its weaknesses. And that many of the attempts at jokes don't land, but I wouldn't say it's much of a glaring issue; in fact I would say that the film doesn't actually have a whole lot wrong with it at all. Nothing deserving of the review scores, and perhaps a watch over the weekend if you've got nothing else to watch, and are also curious of catching a look into the era of Hollywood that still cared, was definitely more relaxed, but also showing a healthier, happier society under what we would now certainly refer to as a better time. How strange to be able to say that about 2006?

I would say I did enjoy watching Employee of the Month. Despite it not being great, it was a nice change to the more recent style of films. In a way, it has its own charm to it that can pull you in and wanting more of that sort of formula.

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Hello, @namiks

I don't remember having seen this specific movie, but I have seen some series where it reflects what you well define about common and normal people who struggle day by day with an endless routine that enslaves them.

I agree with you that Hollywood has lost some charm and freedom of expression in pursuit of political correctness.

At least we can still take those works and remember the spirit of an era where the laughable was shown the everyday. Of course, that doesn't mean that it has totally disappeared, but today it is not as exposed as in the not-so-distant past.

I wonder, what will cinema be like in ten or twenty years in the future?


I wonder, what will cinema be like in ten or twenty years in the future?

Probably much more independent. Hollywood more phased out and creations funded by creatives are likely to take over as new methods of funding are created and supported.

Hello @namiks

I totally agree with you on this. Yes, perhaps the metaverse will take the lead in immersive cinema. The future is being delineated under our noses.


I would have loved to see this movies because from what I am seeing here, it's a type of movie I will like but been a series might create more time of watching barrier for me