Finally, a #MeToo film that:
A. doesn’t proclaim every man is a terrible human being
B. Is very subtle and simplistic in its message which in turn speaks more than volumes
C. Always shows without overtly showing and tells without overtly telling (trust me this makes sense)
D. Doesn’t bang you over the head with it’s message every few seconds to make sure you can “see”
This is a wonderful little independent film that came out earlier this year, right around when the Harvey Weinstein was going to trial (how coincidental). Critic Richard Roper describes it best “No blood is shed. No bodies turn up. And yet The Assistant is one seriously chilling monster movie.” I would say a very tense horror/thriller without any of the jump scares as well. The movie itself is about, and borrowing from IMDB.com here: “Jane (played wonderfully and masterfully by Ozark’s Julia Garner, who most recently won a well deserved supporting Emmy for that show) a recent college graduate and aspiring film producer, recently landed her dream job as a junior assistant to a powerful entertainment mogul. Her day is much like any other assistant’s – making coffee, changing the paper in the copy machine, ordering lunch, arranging travel, taking phone messages, onboarding a new hire. But as Jane follows her daily routine, she, and we, grow increasingly aware of the abuse that insidiously colors every aspect of her work day.” In clearer terms, she has a boss that is doing the Weinstein thing, praying on young aspiring actress women, or making them his personal assistants, while meeting them at the hotel’s he puts them up at or is sure to close or lock his door if one of them comes into his office. The way writer/director Kitty Green displays and let’s loose all this information is nothing short than masterful. It is only a little bit at a time and the subtle-ness of the details where anyone outside looking in would think nothing of it.
And the best thing the film does about Jane’s boss? You never see him the entire film. You sort of hear bits and pieces of his raspy and commanding voice over the phone, but you never physically see him. If this were a true monster/horror/thriller movie, he’d be the final entity that the protagonist has to face at the end in order to get out of their ordeal alive. And Jane’s co workers, they would be his minions. But in this case, in this kind of movie, the minions (mainly the two other guy assistants near her desk that also work for this creepo asshole) don’t portray the same behavior as the boss. They don’t sexually harass Jane at all, yet those two and everyone that works for the company acknowledges yet ignores this boss’ behavior, and those actions, or in actions if you will, get in the way of the protagonists goal to be able to conduct business in a safe and secure work environment. If you are reading this, haven’t seen the movie yet, and are interested in this already because of my review, please stop and do yourself a favor and rent it and see what I am talking about for yourself. I’m trying to help make you understand how I feel with my words but I don’t feel like I’m getting my point across and instead you just need some first hand experience so that you can re read my review and relate to it afterwards. This movie is so subtle and simple, yet each frame, each clue of the shady business practices of this companies that is shown to you, is worth a thousand words. It’s quite ingenious and brilliant, and will make you believe how Weinstein got away with his gross and criminal behavior all these years before he was finally outed. Jennifer Lawrence thanking him for her Oscar basically for Silver Linings Playbook in her acceptance speech…you wonder if she ended up…no, no, I can’t think that about her, I just can’t.
Julia Garner is a revelation here. Just like the clues and details in the film, her performance is subtle and simple, yet isn’t. Her facial expression and little mannerisms throughout the film speak a thousand words, it’s pretty much a perfect performance. There is no other proof you need except halfway through the movie when she goes to HR to try and discuss her concerns about her boss’s behavior and the way HR fires back at her (you probably already suspect how that goes). But instead of a grandiose speech that just tries to hit you over the head with its message, it isn’t. There are just hints, clues, and shrug offs, everything about this movie’s execution is subtly brilliant. I can’t explain it better than that. The cinematography in this film is also gorgeous, it’s kind of dark and moody and looks kind of like the cinematography from The Social Network, but with it’s own brand of creative style, and more quiet and calm, unlike the in your face loudness of David Fincher’s film. Writer/director Kitty Green did a phenomenal job with this film, and hope that because of this she gets to direct even more ambitious films in her future. While we have had plenty of #MeToo movies these past 3 years, none of them even compare to how well made, written and acted The Assistant is. Not even close. I wish this was considered the high standard of #MeToo movies, but I’m afraid that a lot of casual moviegoers won’t get what this film achieves, or they will, and just like the minions in this movie, will choose to ignore it.