The clever premise for Hal Hartley's homemade science-fiction comedy The Girl From Monday sounds like a good William Gibson novel or a future dystopia dreamed up by protesters at a World Trade Organization meeting. After a consumerist revolution, America was "liberated" by a corporation called Triple M ("multi-media monopoly"), which imprints barcodes on people's wrists and encourages society's commitment to economic supremacy. To this corporate philosophy, ad man Bill Sage contributes the "cutting-edge" idea that individuals are valued like stock, and their financial status and buying power go up according to sexual activity. (Best come-on ever: "Let's fuck and increase our buying power!") Triple M and its battery of soldierswho, in the film's lo-fi aesthetic, look like they're armed with Super Soakersmeet some light resistance from the Partisans, a raggedy group described as "counter-revolutionaries with no credit rating."
There's ample opportunity here for a sharp consumerist satire, like a dryer cousin to the candy-colored pop-culture send-up Josie And The Pussycats, but Hartley misses his own joke. After a promising start, The Girl From Monday settles into an arch, impenetrable mood piece that's all foreboding atmosphere, with provocative ideas slowly dissolving into the vapors. Sarah Polley brought unexpected emotional resonance to Hartley's last film, the underrated genre-bender No Such Thing, but Hartley veteran Sage (Flirt, Simple Men) brings little color to the writer-director's trademark deadpan. Subverting the system from the inside, Sage tries to help a young Partisan (Leo Fitzpatrick) and his followers disrupt a Triple M broadcast, but his efforts lead to trouble. In the fallout, Sage heads out to the ocean to commit suicide, but winds up saving the mysterious Tatiana Abracos, a beautiful alien from a distant constellation who has come to Earth to bring one of her own back home.
With so much happening on Earth, The Girl From Monday doesn't really need an alien, and Abracos, a dead-eyed Brazilian model, never provides a good reason for introducing one. Mostly, she just mopes around Sage's apartment and learns about the culture by watching television, not unlike Daryl Hannah in Splash. Hartley has no shortage of witty ideas about the parameters of his brave new worldfor example, convicts are either exiled to work concessions at one of many theme parks on the moon, or assigned to teach high schoolbut he fails to populate it with much life. The only spark comes from Sabrina Lloyd, an ebullient castaway from TV's Sports Night. As Sage's workmate, she loses everything when she takes up the counter-revolutionary cause. If only Hartley were similarly engaged, his film might have had some purpose.