Not every idea makes for a good film, but even bad ideas that are well executed can make for a good movie. Sadly, The Workshop has neither. A jumbled mess of ideas that substitutes topicality for actual drama, it never coalesces into anything that demands to be seen.
Antoine (Matthieu Lucci), along with other kids, is assigned to a summer writing workshop before they enter the workforce. The class is led by thriller novelist Olivia Dejazet (Marina Foïs), and is supposed to help them reflect on their town, La Ciotat. It is a small seaside town that has seen better days. Years ago, the shipping yard was prosperous, but the economy has moved on, leaving La Ciotat depressed.
While his other classmates are very social and come from diverse ethnic backgrounds, Antoine is a white boy who has trouble connecting with his peers, and is obsessed with video games. So of course he’s the ideal candidate to support Trump right-wingers (Le Pen isn’t mentioned by name), as well as sneak off in the middle of the night for some gunplay.
While both Lucci and Foïs do their best, the material is an empty shell. Every moment in this film hinges on the conflict between Antoine and his peers and Olivia’s fascination with the young man. It just comes off as clumsy and ill-thought out because we get so few glimpses at the interior lives of these characters. The script doesn’t offer any explanations for the factors of why Antoine is the way he is, or any sort of struggle he might be experiencing other than his spiraling resentment.
The film wants to playfully deconstruct the thriller genre, but offers nothing as replacement. The drama is stilted at best, and the moments when it does lurch toward attempting to be thrilling just come across as hollow.
The Workshop is currently playing at the Ritz at the Bourse.
Author: Ryan Silberstein
Ryan spends his days at a company named one of the best to work for in the Philadelphia area, and his nights
as a mysterious caped vigilante saving his city from the disease that is crime watching movies. He lives on a diet consisting of film, comic books, experimental beer, black coffee, and those big metal historical markers around town. Follow him on Twitter and Letterboxd.