Watching some movies is like watching a train wreck.
That statement is undeniably true, but it doesn’t go deep enough, does it? The question that has to be answered is whether that means that it’s a wreck within the frame—that is, a designed wreck with the various pieces that go into making a production purposefully causing the wreck—or if all the pieces have, despite the best intentions of the filmmaker, led to it being a wreck. Enter “Monday,” the new film directed by Argyris Papadimitropoulos and written by Rob Hayes & Papadimitropoulos.
“Monday” takes a look at one American couple, played by Starring Sebastian Stan and Denise Gough, in Greece over a series of weekends spread out over a number of months. Functioning like chapters in a book, the sections of the film each start on a Friday and take the audience through that day and (sometimes) the weekend itself.
Stan is Mickey, he does something with music… maybe it’s DJing, maybe it’s jingles, maybe it’s both. Gough is Chloe, she’s an immigration lawyer and at the start of the film, after being in Greece for a year and a half, is about to return to the States having just gone through a bad breakup. She meets Mickey, who has been in Greece for seven years, at a drunken party, and the romance is off and running.
This first section of the movie is great. Papadimitropoulos presents it all in a fun and freewheeling fashion. Everything about it is loose and breezy and has the air of a celebratory vacation. The police even let Chloe and Mickey go after they’re caught nude on the beach.
Eventually, of course, reality must set in and choices must be made. Chloe stays in the country, quickly moves in with Mickey, and the good times… die. They die in the story and in its implementation.
The basic problem the movie faces is that Mickey is entirely unlikable. He is a child. He’s even referred to as a child multiple times in the film. He is at best a bounce back relationship for Chloe, and it becomes a never ending frustration for the audience (or this audience anyway) that she can’t see that.
Mickey gets what he wants, does what he wants, and generally leaves her high and dry. She loves her sofa, so after they unsuccessfully try to move it (and not very hard), he burns it. He’s got a six-year-old son in Greece and the boy’s mom won’t let Mickey see him, but he bails on a meeting to see the mom to set up visitation and sends Chloe by herself. He can’t be bothered to order food for a party or plan a moving van in advance. He is nearly entirely irredeemable. The one thing the movie offers up in his favor is that he loves his son whom he never sees, but even that is arguable.
As the film progresses from one Friday to the next, we fall out of love with Mickey. He may be charming and sweet, but he’s a bad friend and a terrible romantic partner. Even Chloe has her doubts about him and keeps big things hidden from him. But, she stays with him and lets him off the hook over and over again.
What was a fun and freewheeling adventure, and movie, is forced to face the cold, harsh, light of day. It is forced to face not what happens on a Friday or the two days after, but what happens on Monday morning – what happens when the party ends and reality comes to call. This is a tension we see repeatedly in the movie, most noticeably when Chloe’s friends find themselves interacting with Mickey’s. They are like rancid oil and water and make it that much more clear that this pair is a mistake.
So, Mickey is a train wreck. The relationship is a train wreck. Chloe has her moments as well, and much of the tension in the film is found in the question of how far Chloe will allow herself to be dragged down.
The problem is that it all goes on too long when Mickey is so very terrible. The movie does not rise (or sink, depending on your point of view) to the level of train wreck, but only because it becomes tiresome first. The only reasons the movie can offer for why Chloe stays with Mickey throughout is that she’s coming out of a bad relationship and they both very much like to have sex with each other. That is, undoubtedly, enough to get the couple through their first Friday and maybe their second, but it’s not enough for us to believe that they’re still together six months later.
Stan has a winning smile, there can be no doubt about it, and he gives Mickey all the charm he muster. The character, however, is written as a lout and all the charm in the world isn’t going to fix that.
“Monday” ends up playing out like an awful male fantasy where the guy can repeatedly be an infantile jerk and the woman will swoon simply because he smiles at her. The story we witness is a train wreck, but no, that doesn’t make the movie itself a train wreck. It just makes it sad.
photo credit: IFC Films