Raph’s Guide to Moving Pictures #11: Deception, Matt Dillon, and a Hint of Postmodernism

Raph al Guul

What you are about to read will not be as biased as usual. It will actually be more biased. Expect blatant and unapologetic fandom and insensible arguments when you read the things that I have to say about Employee of the Month, one of my favourite films ever. Since there are several films by that name, let me just quickly point out that I am referring to the one from 2004, starring Matt Dillon. It also stars Jenna Fischer in a minor role, which is how I came across Employee of the Month in the first place, and her performance just goes to show that she is always lovely, even when playing a nasty prostitute. Anyway, let’s get on with a bit more relevant information about this film.

One would probably categorize the genre as “dark” or “black” comedy. Let me put it this way: you can definitely expect your fair share of black humor from this film, but particularly the character played by Steve Zahn (or whatever that godforsaken actor’s name is) is so messed up that I wouldn’t even want to cross paths with whoever came up with it. There is something unsettling about the film, and I particularly appreciate that fact. It ties in with the film’s story that, while mostly linear, features a few interjections that defy the rules of continuity, and perfectly warrants watching Employee of the Month several times to understand it.

The way the story is told has a bit of a postmodern air – the audience, desperately trying to piece together the grand narrative of the film, almost completely ignores Dillon’s off-voice that, at the very beginning, admits that everything he is is an illusion, and that “people see what they want and everyone loves a good lie.” And without spoiling too much of it, I can safely say that towards the end of Employee of the Month, it becomes quite clear that the entire film has been a lie, in fact, we even find out that those lies were, in turn, lies. And if you don’t think that makes any sense, either trust me on this one, or just go watch the film.

One thing I do have to mention is that many reviewers who have watched Employee of the Month twice or maybe three times have claimed that there are holes in the logic of the story. I think those people have not watched the film enough times yet. In fact, the story makes perfect sense. Sure, there is a lot of misleading information, but unless you are actively looking for flaws, you will agree that this information works with the lie-driven story that the film eventually turns out to be (and if you do not, feel free to make use of the comment-feature to let me know about it). A certain amount of intuition concerning the sincerity of the characters in individual situations is certainly required to make sense of those controversial passages, but I found that if you manage to do so, you will be rewarded with a very interesting take on relationships and love – which is particularly notable, as the film features Steve Zahn’s character who is determined to burst all of your bubbles if he can only reach them.

As for my recommendation: I will readily admit that the film isn’t for everyone. Particularly if you have reservations concerning what a “clean film” is, you might want to skip this one. It features all kinds of nastiness: strong language, nudity, sexism, homophobia, and general assholery. As I have mentioned: there are some messed-up characters in Employee of the Month that make for deliciously offensive dialogues. However, the film itself isn’t supposed to be offensive, it just makes use of its sexist, homophobic characters to tell an amazingly untrue story. If you are ready to be toyed with a bit, if you enjoy dark humor, if you find joy in snappy writing, and appreciate a competent cast – and if you like it when filmmakers add a hint of postmodernism to their work – then you might want to check out Employee of the Month. Also, if you are a fan of Matt Dillon, you shouldn’t hesitate to give the film a chance, since he performs brilliantly as always.

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2 responses to “Raph’s Guide to Moving Pictures #11: Deception, Matt Dillon, and a Hint of Postmodernism

  1. Wow, finally! Someone that actually put into words what I’ve always felt about this movie. I must agree. Everything you need to know about this movie is delivered to you by Matt Dillon on the bus. People are so quick to slam this flick and I think it’s because they’re not paying attention at the beginning. And yes, after watching it a second and third time, it’s actually a completely different movie.

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