In Alain Corneau's adaptation of Amélie Nothomb's Fear and Trembling, Amélie, a young Belgian woman born and raised in Japan until the age of five, makes a sentimental journey back to the country where she feels she left her heart. She doesn't come as a tourist, however, but on a quest: to fit in, to become Japanese. To fulfill her quest she gets a one-year job as a translator at the Yumimoto corporation in Tokyo. Unfortunately, however, her ideas about Japan are the product of a culturally relativist, western-liberal education and have little currency in the formal, strictly hierarchical, and openly nationalistic Japanese corporate culture. (It turns out to be a disadvantage, for instance, that she speaks fluent Japanese.) To make matters worse, Amélie projects her dreamy, personal perceptions onto other people, which might make her a misfit in a corporation in any country.
When underemployed performers, artists, and writers work in businesses to pay the bills they often don't get the adjustments that have to be made, taking it personally when their creativity isn't relevant, and grinding on resentfully for the paycheck they despise as the symbol of their semi-voluntary servitude. The special charm of Fear and Trembling is that Amélie's impressionistic mind both makes her a freak at Yumimoto and compensates her as she lives out the nightmare of sinking to the level of her incompetence--from translator on down to janitor. The fact that Amélie doesn't fit in is a (traditional) source of irony, but in this movie it also means that the ironic viewpoint is, in part, hers. Amélie is thus both stooge and heroine, which means that the slapstick can get pretty humiliating without awakening any masochism. (The moviemakers understand that irony is a form of identification with character, and so, whether or not you're bad at math yourself, you can laugh both at Amélie and with her, for example, as she becomes unhinged by her inability to reconcile expense reports.)
The movie is slight but in a way that makes it the opposite of pushy; it's companionably easy to laugh with. At one level it's a series of revue-type sketches, narrated by Amélie, about her experience of various aspects of Japanese corporate existence--getting tea and coffee, changing calendars, xeroxing, cleaning toilets, etc.--and has the flippancy of the broad anti-corporate shtick in such American movies as It's Always Fair Weather, The High Cost of Loving, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, The Secret of My Success, and, more recently though in a less high-spirited mode, Office Space.