Monday, May 4, 2020

film review: The Assistant

Directed by Kitty Green

Written by Kitty Green

ChinoKino score: B-

Review by Allan Tong

The Assistant hit theatres in February just as Harvey Weinstein was found guilty of rape. The release date was as intentional as this tale about an office assistant who works for an oppressive boss who beds young women to fulfill his sleazy sexual needs.

We see the film through Jane (played by Ozark's astonishing Julia Garner), an entry-level office assistant at a Manhattan film company. Jane is your common twentysomething office slave: a hardworking college grad who works insane hours and does every crappy task, from wiping away crumbs after meetings to enduring the wrath of the boss' crazy wife. Jane is so overworked that she forgets to phone her dad on his birthday. Jane wants to be a film producer, but for now she keeps her head down and does her job. We feel for her.

However, bit by bit, indignity after indignity, Jane suffers the slights of her boss. The breaking point comes when the boss hires a sweet, young thing to be the new office assistant, though she has zero admin or film experience. The boss even puts her up in a posh hotel. Outraged, Jane snitches to the company legal department in the film's pivotal—and most arresting—moment. Instead of investigating her complaint, the lawyer turns on Jane and reminds her of the countless eager youngsters out there who would kill for her job.

Garner carries the film, portraying Jane with subtlety and conviction. Jane's struggle is a slow boil. The boss is intentionally a shadow figure throughout The Assistant, a figure who makes the employees tremble even when they speak about him.

Writer and director Kitty Green comes from documentary and approaches The Assistant as one. Jane is based on many interviews Green conducted of office assistants, and the film feels real. The problem is that the film feels too much like a vérité documentary—too understated, quiet and, at times, slow. The Assistant is a slow burn. It's too much a character study and not enough a conflict-driven drama.

But does The Assistant make its point? It sure does, and that's a good thing.

No comments:

Post a Comment