Review: ‘Monday’ (2021), starring Sebastian Stan and Denise Gough

April 21, 2021

by Carla Hay

Denise Gough and Sebastian Stan in “Monday” (Photo courtesy of IFC Films)

“Monday” (2021)

Directed by Argyris Papadimitropoulos

Some language in Greek with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Athens, Greece, the romantic drama “Monday” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few black people) representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: A musician/party DJ and an immigration attorney, who are both American and in their 30s, meet in Greece, impulsively hook up with each other, and try to deal with problems in their relationship after they move in together.

Culture Audience: “Monday” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching the annoying shenanigans of a badly mismatched couple in an uneven, overly long movie that irritates more than it intrigues.

Sebastian Stan and Denise Gough in “Monday” (Photo courtesy of IFC Films)

If you’re in the mood to watch two American lovers in their mid-30s act like immature, self-absorbed partiers while living in Greece, in a shallow story that mostly goes nowhere, then feel free to waste about 115 minutes of your time watching this movie. The actors seem to be putting their best efforts forward to make their characters as realistic as possible, but it’s not enough to salvage “Monday,” which is bogged down by a meandering story filled with bad clichés that viewers might expect to see in a frat boy movie. “Monday” also needed better editing, because there are too many scenes that drag on repetitively.

Directed by Argyris Papadimitropoulos (who co-wrote the screenplay with Rob Hayes), “Monday” doesn’t tell a story as much as it strings together insufferable and often-dull scenes of a mismatched couple in Athens, Greece. It’s a movie about how two Americans meet in Greece, they quickly fall in lust with each other, and then they try to make their relationship work when they move in together after knowing each other for a few days. The biggest problem with “Monday” is that it’s more concerned with showing this couple’s antics instead of explaining why they ended up in this dysfunctional relationship.

The filmmakers of “Monday” might think the movie is “edgy” because it’s got full-frontal nudity (male and female), and it portrays people in their 30s acting like irresponsible brats in their early 20s. But “Monday” is just a series of rehashed stereotypes of any movie about young people who quickly hook up after they first meet. “Monday” director/co-writer Papadimitropoulos says in the movie’s production notes that the central couple’s relationship “is a very realistic take—maybe more than we can handle—on all relationships.” However, the “realism” that the movie is trying desperately to depict just comes across as very phony.

There’s even a “race to the airport” scene to stop someone from getting on a plane, which is an overused trope in movies about romance. It’s a trope that’s ripe for parody, but that “race to the airport” scene is in “Monday,” without any wit, irony or campy self-awareness. “Monday” has several of these types of lazy clichés littered throughout the film. Viewers who’ve seen enough of these types of movies will be constantly rolling their eyes at the cheesiness of it all.

The opening scene of “Monday” is a very “male gaze” trope of mostly attractive women (who might or might nor be intoxicated) dancing at a house party. The DJ at the party is named Mickey (played by Sebastian Stan), who is interrupted by the obnoxious party host Argyris (played by Yorgos Pirpassopoulos) because his friend Argyris wants to introduce someone to Mickey. Mickey is slightly annoyed at having to be pulled away from his work, but he obliges, because Agryis is technically his boss at this party.

Argyris (who is in his late 30s or early 40s) introduces Mickey (who is in his mid-30s) to a party guest named Chloe Gaines (played by Denise Gough), who’s also in her mid-30s but she mentions later in the movie that she’s older than Mickey. Before she meets Mickey, Chloe is seen drunkenly yelling into a phone to someone on the other line: “Fuck you, Christos!” It’s at this point in the movie that viewers can predict that Christos is her ex-boyfriend, and he’ll eventually show up in the movie. That’s because (cliché alert) movies like this always have at least one love triangle.

When Argyris introduces Chloe and Mickey to each other, he says it’s because they’re both American, as if that’s enough to make Chloe and Mickey compatible. In a very “only in a movie” scene, as soon as Chloe meets Mickey, she grabs him for a kiss, they start making out with each other, and they run out of the house together to have sex on a nearby beach. Meanwhile, Mickey seems to have forgotten all about the fact that he was in the midst of working as the party’s DJ.

The next morning, Mickey and Chloe wake up completely naked on the beach, and some families with young kids nearby express their shock and disgust. Someone has called the police on Mickey and Chloe for indecent exposure. Two cops (played by Michalis Laios and Mihalis Alexakis) are already at the beach when Mickey and Chloe wake up naked, so Mickey and Chloe get arrested and are hauled to a police station.

In the back of the police car, Mickey and Chloe introduce themselves to each other and tell each other their names for the first time. Yes, it’s that kind of movie. And apparently, Chloe and Mickey also forgot that that were already introduced to each other by Mickey’s friend Argyris.

At the small police station, the police chief (played by Giorgos Valais) on duty has this far-fetched reaction to the arrest: Once he hears that Mickey and Chloe are American, he asks, “Which basketball team do you support?” And he starts talking to them as if they’re having a conversation in a pub, not a police station. The police chief quickly lets them them go with no consequences and barely a warning.

Why? Because the filmmakers want viewers to think that when white Americans behave badly in other countries, it’s not only a privilege, it’s a right. At least that’s the attitude of Mickey and Chloe, as their boorishness gets a lot worse. Without giving away spoiler information about what happens later in the movie, it’s enough to say that this brush with Greek law enforcement won’t be the last time that Mickey and Chloe engage in illegal acts and have a run-in with the police in Greece.

The clichés continue about “irresponsible partiers in a movie.” Chloe finds out that she left her purse behind at the house where the party was held, so she asks Mickey for a ride back to the house. In the first of many signs that Mickey is floundering in his life, he has a motor scooter instead of a car. Chloe and Mickey go back to the house, but no one is there. Mickey calls Argyris to come back to the house so that Chloe can retrieve her purse.

The movie then has a somewhat dull stretch of Chloe and Mickey wandering around until she can get her purse. This self-centered couple actually spend some time asking questions about each other, but the information revealed is the bare minimum. It’s in this part of the movie that viewers will find out that Chloe is an immigration attorney who works on an independent contractor basis. She’s originally from the small town of Blanchester, Ohio, and has spent time living in Chicago. Chloe tells Mickey that she’s lived in Greece for the past 18 months, and she is moving back to Chicago in two days.

Mickey says that he’s originally from New Orleans, but he spent about 10 years living in New York City, where he was a musician in a band for an unnamed period of time. He’s been living in Greece for the past seven years. And he has a 6-year-old son named Hector, who lives nearby, but Mickey rarely sees Hector because Hector’s mother (Mickey’s ex-girlfriend Aspa Karas) had a falling out with Mickey. Mickey doesn’t go into details and will only say that trying to have a cordial relationship with Hector’s mother is a “work in progress.”

And during this “barely getting to know you” phase of their relationship, Mickey tries to persuade Chloe that she shouldn’t move back to the U.S. and that she should stay in Greece to be with him. Keep in mind, this is within 24 hours after they meet. Chloe hems and haws and acts offended that Mickey can be so presumptuous about what she wants and what will make her happy. But it’s not spoiler information to say that Chloe and Mickey end up living together, because their often-turbulent live-in relationship is about 80% of this movie.

“Monday” tries to fool audiences into thinking that Mickey and Chloe have a “love at first sight” romance, but any reasonable adult can see how the relationship is based mostly on sexual attraction, not true love. Mickey and Chloe say “I love you” to each other many times in the movie, but it doesn’t really appear to be that genuine. They’re saying it not because they mean it, but because they don’t want to be alone.

What made Chloe change her mind about living with Mickey? After Chloe and Mickey avoid jail time or any fines for indecent exposure, Chloe eventually gets her purse back, and she says what she thinks will be goodbye to Mickey. But then, that “race to the airport” scene happens, with Mickey running up to the metal detector area, just as Chloe has put her baggage on the conveyor belt.

Because Mickey isn’t a passenger with a ticket, a security officer is holding Mickey back as Mickey shouts at Chloe to get her attention. And the next thing you know, she’s moving in with Mickey. The only thing that’s slightly different about this moronic “race to the airport” scene is that it’s done fairly early on in the movie, instead of it being a typical climactic scene.

Part of the un-realism of “Monday” has to do with the huge gaps in Chloe and Mickey’s conversations before they move in together. Viewers never find out if Chloe or Mickey have ever been married or if they have any family members, except for Mickey’s son Hector. Chloe and Mickey are never shown asking each other these questions or talking about basic things people would want to find out about each other before they move in together as a couple. It’s one of many examples of how badly these characters are written.

And the entire time that Chloe knows Mickey in this story, she doesn’t seem curious to know anything about his son. She doesn’t even ask Mickey to see a photo of Hector. But there’s a whole section of the movie where Chloe tries to help Mickey get visitation rights to Hector. It’s all so “only in a movie” fake.

As for why the movie is called “Monday,” there’s a gimmick where many of the scenes start off with the word “Friday” in giant letters appearing on screen. The concept is that milestones in Chloe and Mickey’s relationship happen on a Friday. Chloe and Mickey met on a Friday. They also move in together on a Friday. You get the idea. And toward the end of the movie, something major is supposed to happen that will change Mickey and Chloe’s living situation. But that occasion (which won’t be revealed in this review) is scheduled to take place on a Monday.

Mickey lives in a two-bedroom condo that used to be owned by Argyris’ late grandmother, who had multiple properties that Argyris inherited. Argryis (who is Mickey’s closest friend) is weasel-like, crude and completely irritating. It’s implied that Argryis lives off of his family’s money because he doesn’t have a job, and his main priority is partying.

It’s easy to see why Mickey wants Argryis as a friend, because of all the perks that Mickey gets out of this relationship. It’s mentioned in the movie that Mickey gets to live rent-free in this condo. And as seen in the beginning of the movie, Mickey is hired to DJ at Argryis’ parties and can ditch the job whenever he feels like having sex with a stranger he just met at the party. The movie quickly fills up with examples of Mickey acting irresponsibly and facing no real punishment or consequences.

If people are wondering why Argyris has the same first name as the director of “Monday,” Papadimitropoulos explains it in the production notes: “The film was shot in places that I know like the back of my hand. The party where [Mickey and Chloe] meet is the same party I throw every year for my birthday. The beautiful island where they spend their first weekend together is the place I spent my last 25 summers and also the island I shot ‘Suntan’ on. Mickey lives in Kypseli—Greek for beehive—the bohemian and multicultural neighborhood of my youth. This is not only a cinematic game or an homage to places I love, it’s a way of making this feel even more personal.”

Personal? More like self-indulgent. Although “Monday” seems to have been inspired by Papadimitropoulos’ youthful memories, the arrested-development characters in the movie are just a little too old for their reckless antics to be considered endearing. It’s all actually quite pathetic.

Mickey hangs out with the type of men who think it’s funny to urinate or ejaculate in a woman’s drink without her knowledge, and then laugh when they tell her what she just drank. And since Chloe has no friends, Mickey’s friends become her friends. Most self-respecting adults would not want to be friends with people like Mickey and Chloe.

One of the more annoying aspects about “Monday” is how it wastes so much time on things that, at best, should have been deleted scenes. Chloe’s move-in day is a chore to watch, because viewers really won’t care about all the details of how Mickey got the truck to transport her furniture and other belongings. The movie spends at least 10 minutes explaining how Mickey got the truck. But apparently, that’s just an excuse to show Mickey and Chloe spontaneously pulling over on a street so that they can have sex in the back of the truck.

And viewers also won’t care to see an extensive segment showing how long it took to try to move Chloe’s favorite sofa into Mickey’s apartment. There’s visual repetition of Mickey and Chloe huffing and puffing while trying to move the sofa, and the sofa being dropped in frustration, because these dimwits refuse to accept that the sofa is too big to be carried up the narrow, winding staircase. (The building doesn’t have an elevator.)

Chloe whines about how it’s is her favorite sofa and she won’t abandon it. And yet, she apparently didn’t figure out early enough that the sofa was too big to be carried up the stairs. Instead, she wastes time trying to get someone to carry the sofa up the stairs, over and over. For an attorney, Chloe doesn’t have much common sense.

But then, later that day, after Chloe made such a big deal out of not wanting to get rid of her beloved sofa, she enthusiastically goes along when Mickey puts the sofa in the front of the building, he pours a bottle of liquor on the sofa, and lights the sofa on fire. This arson happens while Mickey has somehow gathered a lot of people to watch, like it’s some kind of bonfire party. And did we mention that he’s DJ’ing at this gathering too? It’s all just so stupid and contrived in this movie. The cops show up, but Mickey and Chloe run safely into their apartment with no consequences for committing this arson.

Mickey is fairly transparent about who he is, but “Monday” does a big disservice to the Chloe character by not giving her any depth or a real identity. She’s the one who makes the most sacrifices in this relationship, but the movie never gives any hints of why she has blown up her life to be in this dead-end relationship with Mickey. Chloe is given almost no backstory in this movie.

There are hints that Chloe is the type of person who worries about the future and likes to plan ahead. At one point in the movie, she says to Mickey if he ever asks himself, “What am I doing?” (As in, “What am I doing with my life?”)

Mickey flippantly says no, he never thinks that way. So what is Chloe doing with Mickey, who’s the epitome of an impetuous hedonist who only wants to live in the present? Opposites can attract, but there’s nothing in the movie that shows that these two have any real love for each other.

“Monday” tries to make it look like Chloe has somehow decided to get rid of her hangups after she’s met Mickey. But did she really? Viewers never find out what kind of person Chloe was before she met Mickey. There’s no indication of any past relationships she’s had, except with Christos (played by Andreas Konstantinou), who is depicted as a wealthy control freak.

Christos is not in the movie long enough to find out much about the relationship that Chloe had with him. Chloe doesn’t want to talk about Christos, and the movie doesn’t have flashbacks, but it’s inferred that she broke up with him. However, if Chloe ended the relationship with Christos because of his controlling nature, she’s jumped into another co-dependent relationship with Mickey. Most of what Chloe does in her relationship with Mickey is either cater to Mickey’s needs or enable his immaturity.

There are plenty of people whose careers are going well, but their personal lives are a mess. There are plenty of women who seem to have orderly lives but who have a pattern of going for “bad boys” who make their lives chaotic. Is Chloe that type of person? Viewers never find out. The filmmakers don’t want her to be a whole person. Her personality is essentially just a series of reactions to whatever Mickey says or does.

Based on things that are mentioned by people who know Mickey, it’s clear that he’s had an “I don’t want to grow up” attitude for a very long time, which explains a lot of things about how he lives his life. In one of the better-acted scenes in the movie, Chloe is sent by Mickey to have lunch with his ex-girlfriend Aspa (played by Elli Tringou), who is Hector’s mother, to discuss Mickey’s visitation rights for Hector. Aspa, who’s known Mickey longer than Chloe has, tries to burst Chloe’s bubble about Mickey, by warning her that Mickey is “a child.”

When Chloe speaks in glowing terms of how she and Mickey are in love, Aspa gives Chloe a reality check about Mickey’s selfishness. Aspa says that Hector speaks mostly Greek, but Mickey refuses to learn Greek and expects Hector to speak in English when Hector and Mickey communicate. Chloe brushes off this insightful information like a typical person in denial. Instead, Chloe chooses to think of Aspa as a bitter ex-girlfriend who’s jealous that Mickey has moved on to someone new.

It’s very telling that (1) Mickey would take the cowardly way out and not deal with the child visitation issue himself, by sending his new girlfriend to do the dirty work for him, and (2) Chloe was willing to do it. Can you say “doormat”? Later in the story, Chloe, not Mickey, comes up with the idea for them to learn a children’s song in Greek, as a way for Mickey to communicate with Hector in Greek.

The only indication that Mickey is making some attempt to be a caring father is that he has a room furnished for Hector, in case Hector comes to visit. Chloe knows that Aspa has denied visitation rights to Mickey, so Chloe volunteers to help Mickey with these legal issues, even though family law is not her specialty. In the meantime, Chloe wants to use Hector’s room to store some of her belongings. Mickey is very reluctant to allow it because of what the room represents. How this issue is resolved is an example of how awkwardly Chloe and Mickey have to navigate their relationship when they barely know each other.

While Mickey and Chloe are living together, Chloe decides to work from home until she finds office space. This arrangement turns out to be a hassle because Mickey, who makes some of his money by writing commercial jingle music, also works from home. Mickey’s home studio is in the living room, while Chloe’s “office” is in a room next door. It’s easy to predict some of the conflicts that arise.

There’s a tedious scene in the movie where Chloe and Mickey both have business meetings in their home with their respective clients at the same time. Not surprisingly, Mickey’s work involves playing music loudly, which disrupts the meeting that Chloe has with a man who wants to hire her for an immigration case. Mickey also gets into an argument with his client, who’s not happy with the music that Mickey created for the jingle. For some unknown reason, Argryis is in Mickey’s client meeting too, piping in with his opinions, even though Argryis doesn’t have a job and he has no discernable talent.

Chloe asks Mickey to keep the noise level down, but he barely does. Meanwhile, when Chloe finds out that the man she’s meeting with was referred to her by her ex-boyfriend Christos, she abruptly ends the meeting and tells this potential client that she can’t be his attorney. It’s easy to see that Chloe got upset as soon as Christos’ name was mentioned. Don’t expect this movie to give details on why Chloe and Christos broke up.

“Monday” gives a little bit more insight into Mickey’s past when his ex-bandmate Bastian (played by Dominique Tipper) shows up at Chloe and Mickey’s home, at Mickey’s invitation, because she’s in Greece to perform at a headlining show. Bastian is now a semi-famous solo artist who still lives in New York City. During their conversation, Bastian remarks to Mickey: “You’re not really happy unless you’re failing, and that’s why you left the band.”

It’s revealed that Mickey and Bastian used to be in a New York City-based band called Saint Claude. The band had a record deal and was doing pretty well, but Mickey quit toward the end of a successful tour. Mickey has some remorse, but not much. And it’s never explained why he quit, but it’s implied that he didn’t want to deal with any pressures that come with success. During her visit, Bastian tries to persuade Mickey to move back to the U.S. and work with her, but he immediately declines the offer.

After Bastian leaves, and Mickey and Chloe are lying in bed together, Chloe asks Mickey what Bastian meant by Mickey not being happy unless he’s failing. Mickey doesn’t really a straightforward answer, but he looks somewhat hurt and haunted, as if he knows that what Bastian said is entirely true. It’s one of the rare moments in the movie where someone shows some inkling of introspection.

But those moments are overshadowed by more shallowness and some drug-fueled antics. And, of course, there’s another cliché of a romantic drama that’s easy to predict the moment that Chloe is seen vomiting into a toilet in the middle of the day. And it’s not because she’s got a hangover.

Even without some of the insipid things that happen in this disjointed and wandering story, “Monday” fails on a very basic level of a romantic drama, by making the central couple so superficial. That doesn’t mean that they have to be likable. But viewers should feel like the couple can be relatable and that the romance is worth rooting for in some way, even if this duo is all wrong for each other. Chloe and Mickey’s romance is supposed to be the soul of this movie, but “Monday” is almost entirely soulless.

IFC Films released “Monday” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on April 16, 2021.