10 January 2017

Two Days, One Night

Well, this movie certainly couldn't be made in America.  Can you imagine the typical American movie-goer staring at this thing?  Where's the Super Hero?  Where's the gun?  Where's the nude scene?  They'd be fidgeting in their seats after five minutes.  Angry after ten.  

So. . .the movie. . .it's about Sandra who along with her husband and two kids live scraping by, paychecks-to-paychecks.  It's the typical dismal Western existence, and it leaves Sandra so anxious and depressed, she's had to take a sick leave from her solar panel factory job.  While she's been out, the boss sees he can get by without her, if everyone else picks up an overtime shift here or there. . .so. . .the boss decides to ask Sandra's co-workers if they are OK with him shit-canning her as long as they get a thousand euro bonus for their extra work.  Hellz yeah!  they say, without Sandra around.  But a co-worker tells Sandra, and then they ask the boss if they can hold one more employee vote on the following Monday, the day Sandra was due to return to work. . .and that's the movie. . .Sandra has the weekend, two days, one night, to visit her co-workers at their homes and beg for her job. 

As I said, this thing could never be made in America, even though Sandra is as American as apple pie and Xanax. . .yup, Belgian Sandra could easily pass as a regular American woman: poor, shitty low-paying job, too depressed to fuck (hasn't screwed her husband in months), addicted to pills and so overwhelmed by her tenuous hold on (western) life (which is almost completely ordered by money) she can barely get out of bed, let alone muster the will to beg for her job.  Yet she does. . .though it often requires the nagging of her chain restaurant cook husband.

And so that's the movie. . .scene after scene of Sandra interrupting her co-workers on their precious weekends. . .Sandra's half-hearted begging ruining the two days and one night when they try to forget how miserable their own Western material existences are:

Sandra: I'm here because Juliette and I saw Dumont.  He agreed to a new vote on Monday.  I wanted to ask if you'd agree to vote for me to keep my job. 

Hand-wringing co-worker: I didn't vote against you.  I voted for the bonus.  Dumont put one against the other, not me.

Sandra: I know.  It's sick forcing you to choose. But I don't want to lose my job.  Without my salary, we can't get by.  

Hand-wringing co-worker: I can't.  I need the bonus.  We need 500 a month for our oldest girl's studies.  How about the others?  What do they say?

Sandra: Robert, Juliette and Kader will vote for me to stay.  The others, I don't know.  You're the first I've seen.

Hand-wringing co-worker:  I can't.

Sandra: I understand.  I'm sorry.

Hand-wringing co-worker: You don't need to apologize.  I just can't, that's all.

Sandra: Good bye.

There's 8 or 10 or a 100 (seeming) more scenes almost exactly the same, with only minor variations, some for and some against Sandra.  All the co-workers, except one young prick, seem sympathetic, but that thousand euros sure is tempting! 

The only *action* consists of a frazzled Sandra popping Xanax, pulling the shades and crawling into bed:
[Actually, this would be a very soothing movie for the chronically depressed, it's best viewed in a dark bedroom, with the only other noise being a ticking clock.]

Well, this is the kind of socially conscious drama that used to get made in Depression-era America, and which the Coen brothers mercilessly mocked in Barton Fink. . .so you couldn't make this movie now in America, in today's America, where social consciousness is seen as perverse:

health care for everyone?  are you crazy?

those darkies are out of their minds, protesting the police!

just eat your gmo food and vaccinate your kids and be happy like everybody else!

$15-an-hour for the retard at McDonalds?  my Big Mac will cost 25¢ more!

On the other hand, I don't want to give the impression Two Days, One Night is revolutionary cinema, either. This ain't Bicycle Thieves. The plot (those 8 or 10 or 100 scenes of Sandra pleading for her job) is rather thin, and one must not wonder too long how a person like Sandra would ever summon the desire and energy to endure her grueling weekend of dignity-crushing begging. That the film works to the surprisingly high degree it does is due chiefly to the stellar acting of Marion Cotillard. It's a mostly physical performance. . .the subtle body language, facial expressions and near-flat affect of an ordinary woman nearly ground to nothing by the millstone of *everyday life.* Cotillard makes Sandra a convincing modern secular saint, one who carries her burdens from doorstep-to-doorstep with a mustard seed of faith in her fellow man, and who thus manages to endure until the end [without *going postal,* which is how an American remake would end.]

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