As I was browsing the video on demand (Video on Demand) options for this week, I ran across this indie film, The Assistant that had picked up a bunch of buzz from several different film festivals. The other reason I wanted to check this one out is because it stars Julia Garner which many people will recognize from the Netflix Series Ozark.
The Assistant follows one day in the life of Jane, played by Garner, who is a lowly assistant to a powerful New York film producer. Just from that description, I think most people will see that this film will draw some parallels from the Me Too movement and the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse cases. It does to a certain degree, but the film goes deeper than just a cursory glance at the material. The Assistant asks us the audience to consider what would we do if we faced a similar circumstance. This is where The Assistant is a brilliant movie, in that Jane is exposed to small things time and time again throughout her mundane and boring day that remind her that something is taking place with her boss and other women that is not right. Her coworkers are not helpful in her plight and really bring some truth to the sayings of Edmund Burke “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
The style of the film is not your typical Hollywood fare. Kitty Green who wrote and directed this movie uses her past experience as a documentary filmmaker to craft this slow-paced story into an intense and intentional narrative. I don’t ever feel that Green is being preachy but instead is being very thoughtful and asking her audience to do some heavy lifting when it comes to their own thoughts and feelings. Gardner doesn’t have a lot of lines in the film, but her performance stands out because of how she is able to physically emote all the feelings that Jane is going through. There is one scene where she is trying to talk to her boss’ boss about his behavior and she is shut down by this man, it was simply heart breaking to see the change in her posture and demeanor.
As much as I appreciated the themes, the characters, and the writing of the film, I could also see that this type of film is not for everybody. There is a not a lot of action and the film can seem too subtle at times. The Assistant also has a very ambiguous ending that can make audiences feel less than satisfied.
Overall, I would give this movie a B (A Good Movie). This is not your typical Hollywood movie, which makes sense when you realize that Kitty Green, who is known for her documentary films, has written and directed this movie. There is not a lot of action, it can seem slow in pace, and the dialogue is often hard to hear. It doesn’t sound like a recipe for success. However Green, is intentional about the pace and the events in the movie because she is asking us to face a very serious question which is what you would do when you are confronted by evil. It seems like an easy answer but following Jane, played by Julia Garner, who is a lowly assistant working for a powerful New York producer we are challenged to what it means in people’s lives. Garner performance is very powerful not in her words but in all the actions that we see her go through. This film is definitely not for everybody but if you are looking for a film that is subtle, powerful, and makes you think then I would recommend getting this on video on demand.
The Assistant is rated R for some language. The film was directed by Kitty Green. The Assistant stars Julia Garner, Matthew Mcfadyen and Makenzie Leigh.