Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Monday (2020), dir. Argyris Papadimitropoulos - Film Review

The New York Times review and the trailer for "Monday" (2020) made me want to see this independent film from writer-director Argyris Papadimitropoulos ("Suntan," 2016). Times reviewer Glenn Kenny called it "a sharply observed, well-acted picture with a lot of tart detail and a few real stings in its tail." The trailer speaks for itself (see a teaser version below). While Kenny's laudatory summary statement is valid, "Monday" also suffers from story problems that result in an abrupt, unsatisfying ending. 

There's no problem with the beginning. It creates an intriguing predicament for the two leading characters. Stood up by her Greek lover before her return to the United States, Chloe (Denise Gough) consoles herself with alcohol and revelry. Mickey (Sebastian Stan) is the DJ at the Athens bar where she's drinking and dancing.  Both are American expatriates. Mickey's Greek friend Argyris (Yorgos Pirpassopoulos) unceremoniously pairs them. They hit it off. Chloe spends the night with Mickey. 

The pair wake in the morning sprawled naked on a family beach, where the local police arrest them as Greek mothers stare and scold from a distance. At the police station, Mickey smooth-talks the American-sports-loving officer-in-charge. The couple walks with a warning. There's still one problem: Chloe has tickets to return to the States the next day. A new position at a Chicago law firm awaits her. She's firm about her plans, which Mickey tries to accept. But his mood sinks after she leaves for the airport, and he seeks solace in alcohol and bitter sarcasm. Right on cue, his sidekick and benefactor Argyris convinces Mickey that he's in love with Chloe. Then he helps him to persuade her to stay in Greece to pursue the fledgling relationship.

This situation sounds like the standard setup of a rom-com story. But the comedy darkens as their romance's unfunny complications intrude on the accidental lovers. They distract themselves from their incompatibilities. Front and center is their shared penchant for self-destructive, immature behaviors. Romantic comedy segues into drama with a tinge of tragedy appropriate to the history of the Greek setting.

From this point onwards, Papadimitropoulos develops believable and serious complications from his characters' story and their individual backstories. Then, at the height of tension, the film ends. This ending does not seem "tacked on" and makes sense. Yet it feels like a bit of a postmodernist cop-out. Still, "Monday" is worth the time invested in watching it, although it might not be the best work that its director has done to date.

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