(Written by Allison Brown)
Zero Fucks Given (Rien à foutre), the debut feature of directing duo Julie Lecoustre and Emmanuel Marre, truly gives zero fucks about offering up a compelling story. Although there is some interesting commentary, it is depicted without flair or flourish.
The French drama meanders slowly through a narrative chronicling the life of protagonist Cassandre Wessels (Adèle Exarchopoulos), a 27-year-old Wing flight attendant from Lanzarote (part of the Canary Islands). She recently lost her mother in a car crash, and immediately fled from her family trauma with a contract from the airline. Cassandre is forced to tolerate sexist business practices and obnoxious clientele on a daily basis, which unfortunately leads to unethical behavior. She is dealing with some level of alcoholism, constantly partying and taking shots prior to takeoff on the job. Her career seems to be a means of excused instability in her life, explaining away her constant casual flings from dating apps and inability to settle down. Cassandre very much appears to be damaged.
Wing is a textbook example of a company, as well as part of an industry, that perpetuates sexual harassment in the workplace. One of Cassandre’s coworkers berates her for not shaving her legs, and warns that if she doesn’t do it soon, their entire team may get a bad report. Cassandre simply responds with “I don’t care,” which is the gist of her attitude towards everything in her life. In another scene, she is conducting a video interview, dressed modestly pristine in a suit. The interviewer asks her about her relationship status, how she stays in good shape, if her hair is her natural color, how she would respond to a passenger hitting on her, and finally instructs her to “stand up and walk a little please” for the camera. The level of objectification is mortifying.
Oddly enough, Cassandre just goes along with it, offering to dye her hair blonde “if it’s better for the guests” and makes it clear that she has no attachments whatsoever. In addition to the permitted sexual intimidation, Wing forces the flight attendants to upsell food and odd retail products, such as perfume. There is even an app tracking their progress, and they must meet quotas. It is disgusting and unethical; a stewardess’ primary role is hospitality, maintaining a safe and comfortable environment for the passengers on the plane. Clearly, this business impropriety is well-known publicly, as Cassandre and her team stumble upon protestors in Barcelona prior to boarding a flight. The protestors urge her team to join them, but they simply make excuses and decline. “We’re not the same age; what we can sacrifice isn’t the same.”
The film should make anyone considering a career as a flight attendant think twice, particularly due to the portrayed clientele. Cassandre has to deal with all sorts of insufferable individuals, arguing for things completely out of her control. One man asks for a beer and refuses to pay for it, as his seat was expensive enough. He then berates her and her “shitty little company and shitty little job.” Another woman is sitting in the front of the plane, although her actual seat is 20C. She refuses to move and holds up the plane’s ascent. A young lady tries to bring a bag on the plane that is too large to fit in the overhead compartment. She claims she has used it many times, and she can’t afford to pay to check the luggage. What is a stewardess supposed to do when she is only trying to follow the rules she has been given?
Rien à foutre would have been a much stronger movie if it focused on the bleak workplace conditions at Wing, and if Cassandre actually stuck up for herself, instead of letting the company step all over her. Any feminist is sure to be incensed by her inability to confront the blatant sexism. After the company abruptly transfers her to a new role that is currently unavailable, she is forced to return home and stay with her father (Alexandre Perrier) and sister (Mara Tarquin). This segment reveals some of her background, but nothing truly happens. It feels overly long and lacks substance. There is definitely potential here, as Adèle Exarchopoulos is a talented actress, but her skill is wasted with an unfocused script. The audience is left bored and hoping for more.
Zero Fucks Given prepares for takeoff in competition for Critics Week at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival.