Quick synopsis: A tale of a flight attendant on a low-cost airline dealing with idiot customers, senseless management, and the death of her mother.
I’m going to get it out of the way, this is frustratingly uneven. There are moments of greatness, and then moments where it feels like it’s just treading water. When she’s on the plane it’s engrossing, entertaining, and horrifying in how people treat staff they see as “below them”, yet when she steps away from that, the film loses something.
It’s weirdly ironic as that’s one of the central points of the film: that she has no identity outside of her job. It’s very reminiscent of Sweat in terms of how the character feels she has no personality outside of what she portrays to the world, she is not an independent person, but someone who is to be moulded and shaped as her audience wants.
There are a few missteps in the opening. She’s in a meeting at work and being told they’re now being measured on individual sales rather than as a group. You’d think this would lead to the staff being very cut-throat in terms of stealing sales opportunities from each other, but it doesn’t. It’s a missed opportunity. Her next shift is just a standard one, and then she goes drinking. Personally, I think if we were shown her being hypercompetent, a real genius at her job, or stressed out and near breaking point, that would have made the transition to drinks and drugs in the next scene a better contrast.
On the subject of alcohol, the drunken conversations are terrible, but in a good way. Drunk people don’t make sense, they ramble, and they say stupid shit. They swerve from topic to topic like a drunk driver. Usually, when films show drunk dialogue, they do it by just having them slur their words a bit while expressing their true feelings, so it’s good they did something different here. It’s without a doubt among the most realistic drunk dialogue I’ve seen on screen.
The dynamic changes when she’s told her job is no longer needed, and she’s being put forward for another one which she’ll need training for. Maybe it should have started here as that section is one of the most telling moments of the sheer hell the staff have to go through. It’s said out loud there that they’re not human, they’re just smiling faces whose job is not to help the customer, but to sell stuff. It’s remarkably dehumanising, and if this was shown earlier in the film it would have improved it. There’s a moment where her manager is yelling at her because she’s not downrating her crew for things beyond their control, anybody who has worked in retail or customer service feels that pain.
As good as some of the dialogue is, as interesting as the story is at times, and as stunningly beautiful it looks at times, Adèle Exarchopoulos is the definite highlight. When she’s on screen it feels like the weight of the world is on her shoulders. She’s probably best known over here from Blue Is The Warmest Colour, which is great but she doesn’t have pleasant memories of, due to the director being a, let’s put this diplomatically, a complete prick. Hopefully, this becomes her stand-out film, she deserves a film that the western world adores and that she doesn’t have negative feelings attached to. It is a good film, and definitely worth a watch, I just feel it could have been slightly better.