Monday, August 14, 2017

What Happened to Monday?: Multiple Noomi Rapaces on Netflix

In the medium-future, the Euro-dystopia has adopted China’s family planning policies. One-child allotments are rigorously enforced by the jackbooted Child Allocation Bureau (CAB). Extra siblings are humanely put into cryogenic sleep to await a better, more sustainable world. Yeah, sure there are. In any event, cranky inventor Terrence Settman was not about to let his orphaned septuplet granddaughters get whisked away to a bureaucratic fate worse than death. Instead, he secretly raised them to live as the tag-team Karen Settman persona. However, when the first Karen Settman of the week fails to come home, her grown twins must track her whereabouts without revealing their secret in Tommy Wirkola’s What Happened to Monday? (trailer here), a Netflix original film, which starts streaming this Friday.

Old Man Settman, seen in formative flashbacks, assigned each twin a day of the week to leave the apartment, which became their informal names among themselves. At the end of each day, the siblings would have a group review, so they could fake their way through their respective days. Since they each have their respective talents (Friday is a numbers cruncher, Thursday can drink all night with clients), they have risen up the corporate finance ladder quite quickly. However, on the day Karen Settman receives the big promotion they had been working towards, Monday disappears.

Obviously, if anyone on the outside sees two Karen Settmans, it would be curtains for at least six of them. Nevertheless, Tuesday will have to venture out to determine the fate of Monday. Despite some tiresome smoke-blowing from a work rival, it quickly becomes apparent the dastardly Nicolette Cayman is involved. Not only is she the architect of the draconian One Child policies and the director of the CAB, she is also a candidate for parliament, so she is not eager for news of septuplets surviving undiscovered well into adulthood to leak to the press.

Sometime in the 1970s, the apocalyptic left recognized Marx’s failures and adopted an 18th Century British country curate as the guiding philosophical star. Thomas Malthus’s dire forecasts of exploding population and dwindling resources could be used to justify no end of governmental controls. Formerly a liberating force, the masses became the rapacious instrument of their own destruction. Happily, Malthusian analysis was thoroughly debunked by Julian Simon, but screenwriters Max Botkin and Kerry Williamson obviously did not get the memo. People are still little more than a drag on resources in Monday’s world. It is just a little tacky to kill them outright, like Cayman does.

Obviously, there are echoes of Orphan Black to be heard in Monday. It also bears some similarities to Ben Bova’s entertaining 1980s novel Multiple Man, in which a series of clones managed to get elected President of the United States and then somehow lose their “Monday.” Bova’s novel would probably require a lot of updating, but its political intrigue would still be more fun than Wirkola’s derivative dystopia.

Most problematically, Noomi Rapace does not distinctly delineate her various Karen Settmans, forcing us to rely on superficials, like wardrobe and hairstyle to tell them apart. Glen Close has chewed plenty of scenery as various villainesses, but she phones it in as Cayman. However, Willem Dafoe’s Grandpa Settman is appropriately intense and (justly) paranoid, while Marwan Kenzari charismatically upstages his love interest[s] as Adrian Knowles, the CAB officer who has been secretly carrying on an affair with Monday.

Dystopia is getting old. It’s time for the pendulum to swing back towards Heinleinesque and Roddenberryesque science fiction optimism. Monday is a case in point. It all just feels like familiar ground. Okay as a time-wasting stream, but instantly forgettable, What Happened to Monday? launches this Friday (8/18) on Netflix.