Indie allegorizes the dark side of "just following orders." 

Compliance, writer-director Craig Zobel's provocative second feature (following the little-seen Great World of Sound, which screened at the 2007 Indie Memphis Film Festival), made a buzzy debut at Sundance earlier this year. And while the story it tells might strain credulity, Compliance is not only based on a true story but on a crime that's apparently been repeated, successfully, dozens of times.

The film is set in a fast-food restaurant ("ChickWich") in Ohio (the actual case on which the film is based happened in Kentucky), and early scenes ably sketch workplace dread and alienation without hard-selling too much. If you've worked corporate retail in any form, much less fast-food, there may be an uncomfortable sense of recognition. Along the way, Zobel deftly fills in character detail — small workplace resentments and anxieties — that will inform the psychology of what's to come.

And what's to come is something more sinister than the typical workday hurdles and indignities. It's a call to store manager Sandra (an utterly relatable Ann Dowd) from a man claiming to be a police officer investigating charges that one of her employees, pretty blond teenager Becky (Dreama Walker) has stolen money from a customer. Already concerned about her job security and perhaps a little resentful of Becky's mild mean-girl self-absorption, the middle-aged, newly engaged Sandra follows instructions from the man on the other end of the line, even submitting a reluctant but ultimately compliant Becky to a backroom strip search. And then it goes further.

Zobel works through the beats of this story in a tidy, straightforward way, and his depiction of Becky's degradation is reserved enough to dodge — at least for this viewer — suspicions of exploitation, though it's impossible not to wonder how the film would play with a less attractive victim or not to think about why such a casting choice would be unlikely.

Those considerations aside, Compliance is a commanding piece of work. In trying to understand how ordinary people could be so gullible, Zobel crafts an allegory about submission to authority that resonates beyond this wild, ripped-from-the-headlines story.

Compliance

Opening Friday, September 21st

Studio on the Square

Keep the Flyer Free!

Always independent, always free (never a paywall),
the Memphis Flyer is your source for the best in local news and information.

Now we want to expand and enhance our work.
That's why we're asking you to join us as a Frequent Flyer member.

You'll get membership perks (find out more about those here) and help us continue to deliver the independent journalism you've come to expect.


Favorite

Tags:

Compliance
Rated R · 90 min. · 2012
Official Site: www.magpictures.com/compliance
Director: Craig Zobel
Writer: Craig Zobel
Cast: Ann Dowd, Dreama Walker, Pat Healy, Bill Camp, Philip Ettinger, James McCaffrey, Matt Servitto, Ashlie Atkinson, Nikiya Mathis and Ralph Rodriguez

Trailer


Now Playing

Compliance is not showing in any theaters in the area.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
    • A Star Is Born

      Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper dazzle in a rare remake that feels necessary.
    • The Sore Losers

      Mike McCarthy’s dangerous vision of garage rock decadence, returns for a Gonerfest encore
    • First Man

      Ryan Gosling plays Neil Armstrong in this flawed biopic

Blogs

News Blog

U of M Lowers Out-of-State Tuition

News Blog

City Council Considers Plastic Bag Tax

News Blog

The League is Live for "Ambitious Singles"

Hungry Memphis

On Crosstown Cafe's Look

Intermission Impossible

Lizzie Borden Rocks Theatreworks

Fly On The Wall Blog

WMC Has Something to Say About Uranus

News Blog

City Removes Lime Scooters

Politics Beat Blog

Reminder: Early Voting Continuing Through Thursday, November 1

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

Music Video Monday: Harlan T. Bobo

From My Seat

National Baseball Day

ADVERTISEMENT

More by Chris Herrington

  • Last Words

    In "Enough Said," James Gandolfini makes his last lead film role his best.
    • Sep 26, 2013
  • Masters of Sound

    New albums from two of Memphis’ most distinctive stylists.
    • Sep 19, 2013
  • Hayes Carll at the Hi-Tone

    • Sep 19, 2013
  • More »

Readers also liked…

ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2018

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation