Sundance 2012 Review: COMPLIANCE - Why Are People So Stupid?

MovieSundanceby Joey Paur

Compliance was one hell of a jacked up movie, involving incredibly stupid people that were obviously born without common sense. The worst part about it is the fact that it's based on a true story. The film was incredibly frustrating to watch because of how ignorant the characters are, but it was still solidly good. 

The story follows a young girl that works at a fast food restaurant who is accused of stealing money from a customer's purse. Basically what happens is a man calls claiming to be a police officer investigating the young girl and the theft, and he orders the restaurant manager to detain her until the police come to pick her up. The man on the phone convinces the manager and several other people to help him in the investigation before the police arrive, ordering them to look for the money by stripping her down naked, touching her, doing a full body cavity search, and then moves into stuff like spanking her for being bad. It just gets worse from there. It's insane! You can tell right off the bat that the guy on the other end of the phone is full of shit. It took me less than five minutes to figure out that this guy was doing this for his own arousal. 

The fact that this is based on a true story and that this kind of thing happens all the time scares the hell out of me. Are people really this gullible? Why does no one doublecheck to make sure this guy is legit? There just comes a point where you know something is off, and it should be questioned. The film comes off as being completely unbelievable, and at the same time, it actually happened! That's what's so annoyingly frustrating. I just wanted to scream at the characters in the film the whole time because they did absolutely everything wrong. All they needed to do was hang up the damn phone. 

The movie was good. I liked it. The acting was solid, so it's not like the movie was bad. It was the subject matter that made it hard to watch. The film starred Ann Dowd, Dreama Walker, Pat Healy, and Bill Camp. It was written and directed by Craig Zobel.

The movie is hard to recommend because it's not for everyone. I think people will watch it just to satisfy their curiosity. 

Here's the synopsis:

Becky and Sandra aren’t the best of friends. Sandra is a middle-aged manager at a fast-food restaurant; Becky is a teenaged counter girl who really needs the job. One stressful day (too many customers and too little bacon), a police officer calls, accusing Becky of stealing money from a customer’s purse, which she vehemently denies. Sandra, overwhelmed by her managerial responsibilities, complies with the officer’s orders to detain Becky. This choice begins a nightmare that tragically blurs the lines between expedience and prudence, legality and reason.

Craig Zobel (his The Great World of Sound appeared at the Festival in 2007) returns with this riveting film, based on a true story. The cast delivers hauntingly authentic performances that make the appalling events unfolding onscreen all the more difficult to watch, but impossible to turn away from. Delving into the complex psychology of the real-life story under its sensationalized surface, COMPLIANCE proves that sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction.