It’s an average day at the Chickwich, a fast food restaurant in American suburbia. Store manager Sandra (Ann Dowd) has screwed up yet again, letting bacon and other toppings spoil before weekend. In the hopes of not getting chewed out, Sandra orders extra without alerting her bosses to the error. For Kevin (Phillip Ettinger), Connie (Nikiya Matthis) and Becky (Don’t Trust the B in Apt 23‘s Dreama Walker), it’s another day at a job they don’t particularly like. They joke around and the kick the conversational can while fielding orders for fried chicken and shoe-string potatoes.
Sandra then receives a call from someone identifying himself as “Officer Daniels” (Pat Healy). He claims young Becky has been stealing and requests that Sandra detain her. Sandra complies and pulls Becky off cash duty. This is the first step in a prolonged humiliation and twisted psychological game conducted by Daniels who, despite any assertions to the contrary, will never step in to investigate Becky’s alleged crime.
Based on true events, Craig Zobel’s Compliance is a tense, riveting hour followed by a third act of diminishing returns. What we have here is a great hour of television or great one-act play that buckles slightly under the constraints of a longer running time. That Becky follows through with Daniels’ increasingly implausible and exploitative requests throws reality out the window by the time Sandra’s boyfriend is tasked with strip-searching Becky. I don’t doubt that Becky’s experience, which mirrors several of these real cases, but it’s hard to make that translate believably in the film. While Compliance makes for a fascinating, if flawed drama, you can’t help but wish Zobel had made a documentary instead.
Compliance will show as part of MUN Cinema on Thursday, September 20 at Empire Studio 12. For details visit www.mun.ca/film.