COLCOA Review: ‘CORPORATE’ – Taking Care of Business

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 Courtney Howard // Film Critic

CORPORATE, 95 min, NR
Directed by: Nicolas Silhol
Starring: Céline SalletteLambert WilsonStéphane De Groodt, Violaine Fumeau, Alice de Lencquesaing, Arnaud Bedouët, Xavier De Guillebon, Charlie Anson, Pierre-Loup Silhol

For one reason or another, lots of high stakes drama comes out of corporate culture. I’m not really sure why, as most office jobs are super dull. That said, the stress to impress and the ruthless drive to get ahead are common at thriving conglomerates. This is the setting for first time feature writer-director Nicolas Silhol’s CORPORATE. However, instead of being a permeating treatise on office politics and the cutthroat corporate world, it winds up being a wannabe MARGIN CALL (right down to the similarly inspired poster), a subpar EARLY ONE MORNING (a.k.a. ColCoa 2012’s workplace suicide drama), and a serious spin on the tactics used on “Milton” in OFFICE SPACE.

Emilie Tesson-Hansen (Céline Sallette, who turns in a remarkable performance) is the badass head of HR. She’s risen in the ranks, proving herself as an asset to the hugely successful Essen company. She was molded in the likeness of her boss (Lambert Wilson, whose presence makes this movie infinitely better). She spends nights sleeping in her office, taking “whore’s baths” in her car. She barely sees her husband (French Jake Johnson Charlie Anson) and young son (Pierre-Loup Silhol). But her success was at the expense of many an employee – mainly disgruntled Dieder Delmat (Xavier De Guillebon). It all comes to a head one day as she’s playing Candy Crush at her desk. A loud thump echoes throughout the building. Delmat has jumped from the building’s roof. As the corporate hierarchy scrambles to release a statement that absolves them of the suicide, the guilty parties each deal with the weight of Delmat’s death differently. Three separate investigations are launched, but the one that Emilie feels most compelled by is the one led by workplace inspector Marie Borrel (Violaine Fumeau), who is determined to root out the evildoer.

Céline Sallette and Lambert Wilson in CORPORATE. Courtesy of Diaphana and Uni France. 

Predictable in the worst of ways, Silhol’s first time effort lacks depth and dimension on the realities of workplace anxiety. Though it cuts with some precision, overall it fizzles and bores before a character-redeeming, Hollywood-esque ending. We’re told Emilie is ruthless and exacting in her methods. It’s demonstrated in a few spots: people in the office treat her with disdain. She can be cold, aloof and, at times, callous. We see it in the opening scene, in her conversation with an employee she’s convincing to transfer. Later, we see her heartlessness when she tells a hysterical co-worker to go see a nurse. However, we never feel like her techniques are underhanded until, through exposition, it’s framed as such. And the film never gets much better than the opening title card that reads, “The characters are fictitious, but the management tactics are real.”

Does this make Emilie a bad person? No. She’s a woman with the confidence and stealthy skill of a man, using the strategies of the man who taught it to her. How is that bad? Why should she be positioned as the villain? And if she’s evil, why do I root for her? It doesn’t feel the least bit satisfactory that she turns out not to be – someone else is the true villain. Silhol doesn’t give much examination of the psyche of a businesswoman – which is far different than a businessman. It lacks the perspective necessary to make this genuinely hit.

Grade: D+

CORPORATE played ColCoa on April 28. It currently has no US distribution.

About author

Courtney Howard

Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.