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Girl From Monday, The
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Even for Hal Hartley, this one is kind of weird."
3 stars

The Long Island-based director Hal Hartley has been making films since 1989–roughly the same amount of time as fellow maverick filmmakers Steven Soderbergh, Spike Lee and Richard Linklater–but even in the annals of indie filmmaking, he is usually considered to be little more than a footnote. He has never has a major box-office hit, has never attempted to work for a major studio and makes the kinds of films that lack the exploitable commodities (sex, violence and/or stars) that would make them attractive subjects for media attention. Yet for those who pay attention to such things, his initial output of seven feature films (“The Unbelievable Truth,” “Trust,” “Simple Men,” “Amateur,” “Flirt,” “Henry Fool” and “No Such Thing”) and a like number of shorts and video projects, mostly dealing with alienation, odd interpersonal relationships set against the background of an increasingly hostile world, comprises one of the more intriguing bodies of work of anyone working in the American independent film scene today. (While many of his films are hard to find on video these days, “The Unbelievable Truth,” “Amateur” and “Henry Fool” are the ones that are most worth the effort.)

His latest work, the defiantly odd sci-fi parable “The Girl from Monday” is not, alas, one of his more successful efforts. It meanders around with a screenplay that plays as a recapitulation of his standard themes with random chunks of “Splash,” “Alphaville,” Kurt Vonnegut and the kind of overtly symbolic fiction usually found only in the notebooks of smart-ass high-schoolers, all filmed in smeary digital video and performed by actors who seem wildly uncomfortable with the stilted dialogue they are forced to deliver. And yet, it is, for all of its flaws, defiantly a Hal Hartley film through and through it is hardly the best example of such a thing, it does contain enough items of interest to make it worth at least contemplating.

Set in the kind of not-too-distant-future favored by low-budget filmmakers (where everything looks pretty much as it does now and the few new wrinkles–the helmets worn by the police and the personal bar codes sported by everyone–are the kind that can be acquired with a minimum of fuss or funds), the film is set in the post-“Great Revolution”-era of the city-state of New York, which is under the control of the Major Multimedia Monopoly, which was swept into power preaching the “Dictatorship of the Consumer.” The cornerstone of this revolution is the “Human Value Reform Act,” an idea conceived of by ad-man Jack Bell (Bill Sage) in which people are now considered public offerings to be bought, sold and traded like stocks–eroticism is their gold standard and their value on the market increases every time they engage in sex for personal gain, their value increases. A failed hook-up, for example, can result in the same kind of insurance hassles that a fender-bender might inspire. (Those who have sex for love or because it feels good are deemed uncommercial and are exiled to the moon to work in theme parks.) There are other changes as well–ad campaigns try to sex up ads for children’s clothing and heart surgery and those convicted of crimes against the government are sentenced to teach high school to increasingly violent and apathetic students.

Into this world comes a being from the distant star system known as Monday, a world where the inhabitants are merely part of a collective and no one has an individual name, identity or body. This entity has arrived, plunging naked into the Atlantic Ocean after assuming human form, to seek out a friend who made a similar trip a few years earlier and was never heard from again. Jack, who has grown so despondent over the world he has helped to create that he is now living a secret life as a counter-revolutionary, discovers the alien on the beach and takes it back to his place to hide–perhaps partially because he knows what it is and what will happen to it in the real world and perhaps partially because it has assumed the form of a hot Brazilian fashion model (played, in a bit of serendipity, by hot Brazilian model Tatiana Abracos.)

Inevitably, the Girl from Monday (as she is known) begin to get used to her new surroundings–a danger, for if she stays too long, she will become stuck in her new form and be unable to return home. While trying to help her, Jack also becomes involved in the situation of Cecile (Sabrina Lloyd), a co-worker who has preached the new world gospel without a thought until tasting the fruits of forbidden, profitless passion for herself, leading to a downward slide including a hitch in high school and worse. As the alien becomes more acclimated to her surroundings, the human becomes more alienated from hers until their adventures dovetail. And, of course, there is the matter of that earlier visitor, whose identity will come as a surprise only to those shocked by the fact that the alien would assume the form of a hot Brazilian supermodel.

Like his previous film, “No Such Thing,” Hartley is taking a familiar genre (monster movies in that film and dystopian sci-fi here) to explore the notions of alienation (literally in this case) and oddball relationships that have been at the heart of all of his works. Here, the results just aren’t that clever. The joke of a sex-based consumer society is a clever one, I suppose, but not a particularly funny one and not much is really done with it here aside from comments that sound more like snarky one-liners than fleshed-out ideas. More damaging is the fact that all of the characters are so chilly and remote that it is difficult to work up any interest in them. You may argue that they are supposed to be chilly and remote, but I offer that the characters in something like “1984" are the same, only developed to such a degree that we still find ourselves reasonably compelled by them. It is hard to work up much despair over an emotionless future when the film itself appears to have been made by just that sort of person.

And yet, I can’t help but hold a sneaky suspicion that Hartley, whose previous works have tended to be on the oblique side and avoided any easy explanations of their “meanings,” may have designed this entire film as a sort of goof on pretentious exercises in dystopian science-fiction–in that case, the silliness of the proceedings is just another layer of intrigue. Take the notion of the alien assuming the form of a Brazilian model instead of, for example, someone looking like Sabrina Lloyd (who is a mighty attractive woman, but in a more subdued manner). By casting a sex-bomb in the role, is Hartley simply giving audiences an eyeful or is he slyly poking fun at the sci-fi tradition of female aliens assuming human forms that resemble gorgeous supermodels? Granted, I would probably not be willing to suggest such a reading if this film had been made by most other filmmakers, but Hartley, in my opinion, has built up enough goodwill over his career that I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and entertain such notions to explain the otherwise inexplicable

That said, I still can’t quite recommend “The Girl From Monday” because it simply is not up to Hartley’s usual standards and his insights, taken at face value, are not of any particular value. However, it is, as I said, clearly a product of his unique sensibility and therefore probably shouldn’t be completely dismissed out of hand. Look, if you go to your local multiplex this weekend, you will encounter the likes of “Sahara,” “Fever Pitch” and “The Amityville Horror”–films whose ideas are so familiar and ingrained that you go into them with the inescapable feeling that you have seen them before (and since they are all based on books and the latter two have previously filmed, you may already have). Whatever the flaws of “The Girl From Monday,” unless you have experienced all of Hal Hartley’s work before (in which case, you are going to see it no matter what), you certainly won’t come away from it convinced that you have seen the likes of it before.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=11254&reviewer=389
originally posted: 04/15/05 00:25:52
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Independent Film Festival of Boston. For more in the 2005 Independent Film Festival of Boston series, click here.

User Comments

10/02/09 rafalg see this movie if you want to punish yourself for something really bad 1 stars
2/20/06 Todahe Really very bad 1 stars
6/28/05 Naka Fuck! 1 stars
4/16/05 craig varney this film is alien to me it's out there 2 stars
1/25/05 PolkaBoy Diabolically bad. Interminable mess. 2 stars
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Directed by
  Hal Hartley

Written by
  Hal Hartley

  Leo Fitzpatrick
  Juliana Francis
  Sabrina Lloyd
  Bill Sage
  D.J. Mendel
  Tanya Perez

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