This Ann Dowd drama - based on true events - is often unbearably intense....
Magnolia / 90 Minutes / 2012 / Rated R / Street Date: January 8, 2013
Characters don't act like they should in Craig Zobel's nightmarish fast-food melodrama. In fact, he simmers the seemingly mundane facets of his story to such a feverish boil that at multiple times in this picture, it feels as though he wants his audience to feel like they can't possibly take any more of it. I
t's not as though Sandra (Ann Dowd) and her ChickWich crew hold the fate of the free world in their hands, but in the context of Compliance, sometimes they might as well.
Somewhere in Ohio, Sandra runs a fast food restaurant, and she's having a particularly shitty day. Her employees closed up improperly the night before, and thousands of dollars of bacon has been completely ruined (you gotta remember to shut that freezer door!), and she has word from corporate that a plant will be frequenting her shop during the day to see how her franchise is doing. Then she finds that one of her employees is stealing money, and that Sandra's very job might be at risk.
The reason to watch Compliance is Dowd. With resolute depth, she brings a sense of importance to even the most mundane facets of Sandra's life and times. Zobel defaults to cliche a little too often in terms of his storytelling - some subplots here are simply worth excising - but Compliance really is an intense curio of a picture: it never completely connects, but it has moments where its dramatic stakes are impossibly high, and that makes the world of its characters compulsively identifiable.