Some people just do not know how to handle stressful situations, and Compliance is a perfect example of that. Based on the face-palming true story of a group of McDonalds employees who experience on of the most awkward situations in McDonalds history (possibly more awkward than the employees who served the Supersize Me guy for a month), this indie flick only generated $320,000 in the box office and many scowls.
Largely taken place in the small space of the tiny McDonalds office, or ChickWich as the writers so carefully toyed,Compliance is a look into a psychological game some man with a phone card conducted to pass the time.
ChickWich is about to go through the stressful painful dinner rush, and manager Sandra (Ann Dowd), an engaged 30-something woman, is freaking out. Her insecurities and annoyance with fellow ChickWich cashier Becky (Dreama Walker) is under a microscope the first 15 minutes of the movie; you can tell Sandra and teenage Becky aren’t the best of friends, since their age gap and different personalities doesn’t give them much to bond over.
Tensions between the two worsen when Sandra gets a phone call from an Officer Daniels, informing her he received a call from a customer who claims a blonde hair teenage cashier stole her purse. Sandra assumes this thief is Becky, since there are no other cashiers who meet the description, and so when Officer Daniels insists he is too busy to go there himself (A nod to budget cuts maybe?), and instructs Sandra to keep Becky detained until he arrives, Sandra complies.
What follows are a string of strange and embarrassing instructions Officer Daniels provides Sandra for the next three hours. That’s right, three hours. Apparently Sandra doesn’t think it’s weird that this cop can stay on the phone with her and provide her instructions for three hours, but can’t show up or send another cop to the restaurant to deal with the possible theft. Suspicious? Well, Sandra doesn’t think so!
Officer Daniels’ instructions range from removing all of Becky’s clothes “for evidence”, to having her do embarrassing stints like jumping jacks while only wearing an apron. So, when the dinner rush becomes too much to handle in the front with Sandra absent, she calls her fiancé to watch over Becky and hands him the phone, sparking a new range of creativity on Officer Daniels’ end.
Van (yep, Van), Sandra’s fiancé is instructed to punish Becky by spanking her and forcing her to perform a sexual act. Yeah…. this has gone too far, but is that enough to stop Van or Sandra? No, and its surprisingly not enough for Becky to punch the shit out of someone; she instead endures this humiliation and harassment teary-eyed and almost silent.
Compliance stays true to many details of the Mount Washington Prank scam of 2004 the film is based on. Though there are details added to stray from the actual victims of the McDonalds scandal, director Craig Zobel got most of the sketchy bits right. What he also does is provide you the age-old question, “How obedient will stay for an authority figure?” It’s actually a question that has been scientifically examined, especially after the Holocaust, having once been an actual experiment, the Milgram experiment. Like Sandra and many Nazis who tried to claim their innocence (according to the experiment), they were just following orders. But when does following orders become too much; and how strong are we, individually, to say “no” to someone who claims they know what’s best for you?
Sandra and Van insist they did what they believe they had to because Officer Daniels instructed them to, but as you may have guessed by now, this Officer Daniels fella isn’t an actual officer. He’s not even from the same town, let alone state. Wow, don’t they feel stupid huh? Once this revelation starts unraveling, you feel embarrassed for Sandra and Van, and possibly feel outraged like the many viewers who walked out during the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. You might also never trust an officer by the name “Daniels” ever again.