Dir. Jenny Lu
UK, Taiwan, 2016
Sunday, May 27 16:30
I have often discussed with my students in class that what is actually scarier than being homeless is being one paycheck away from being homeless. It may seem like a "first world" problem when the mythic middle class is diminishing into oblivion as jobs for qualified people disappear because the job market is infiltrated with thousands holding degrees that years ago meant something... but today are worthless. Automation threatens the jobs of the working class...and those graduating from universities every day find themselves taking work they are over qualified for or finding work that is questionable to their previous set of standards and ethics.
The Receptionist is a fantastic portrait of a college graduate who has no other opportunities other than to take up work in an illegally run brothel in London. She is not a working girl herself being the receptionist, but close enough to that underworld to glimpse into a reality she may have to come to face as dreams of a job in her field drift away further. Desperation drives people do things they would not normally do and justifies it with the impossibility of living in modern times. Our moral standards take back seat to paying the bills.
The acting in this piece is also superlative as often times films neglect secondary characters to only fully establish primary relationships. However, this film offers motivation into everyone's behavior and offers the audience understanding into the mindset of each woman. I found particularly the "mean girl" very satisfying as Director Jenny Lu does not offer her up as a simple cliche but someone to identify and sympathize with and even be redeemed. I often have sympathy for the villains in films and love when a character study delves into their psyche.
The subject of immigration can also be discussed...reasons for fear of "others" infiltrating borders and taking jobs is prevalent. An immigrant can work hard and get a good education...and still be in the same boat as a native citizen with that very same worthless degree..."hard work" is simply not enough anymore in a a post capitalistic, neo-liberal vortex of scarcity. - Alexandra Nakelski