December 17, 2008
Casual Day, 2007
Something like a neutered cross between Dan Pita's bituminous satire on dysfunctional leadership, Orienteering, and Nicolas Klotz's exposition on corporate moral conscience (and amnesia) La Question humaine, Max Lemcke's Casual Day is a serviceable, if slight and pedestrian take on the inherent fallacy of team building exercises that serve only to reinforce institutionalized power structures and exploitive relationships. The idea of imbalanced, manipulative, and essentially artificial competition is implied in a prefacing conversation at a café (subsequently revealed to be at a bus terminal) between an emotionally insecure (and seemingly unhinged) young woman named Inés (Marta Etura) and her considerate friend, Marta (Estíbaliz Gabilondo) on her nagging suspicions over her new boyfriend, Ruy's (Javier Ríos) fidelity, comparing his romantic moves during his earlier flirtation with Marta over summer vacation to divine his level of commitment to their relationship. Boarding a charter bus for an overnight team building retreat in the country dubbed as "casual day" where neckties are shed by management and employees alike in a symbolic dismantling of the wall between them (or rather, the floor, given the company's hierarchical office building layout), the newly hired Ruy is visibly uncomfortable throughout the trip, dressed out of place in a suit and tie, and repeatedly approached by the company president - and Inés's father - José Antonio (Juan Diego) who offers periodic words of encouragement, not so subtly hinting that he is looking to groom him for a fast track management position on the presumption that he will marry his daughter. Meanwhile, the company psychologist (Alberto San Juan) has been reviewing questionnaires and believes he has spotted a weak link in one employee's candid responses, as well as an opportunity to put their training into practice by encouraging another employee to openly discuss a perceived slight with his supervisor, Cholo (Luis Tosar) over recognition for a successful project. Lacking the acerbic humor of Orienteering or integral passion of La Question humaine, Casual Day ultimately neither serves as a cautionary tale on personal integrity nor provides insight into the workings of soulless corporations, relying instead on well worn tropes to create an all-too-familiar glimpse of corrosive office politics.