Movie Review: ‘The Assistant’

Writer/director Kitty Green's film is 'Me Too' timely and even though we never see the boss, I'm pretty sure that he's modeled after Harvey Weinstein.

If you want to make something of yourself in Hollywood, you’ve got to start from the bottom up. And that bottom is usually a lowly assistant. You work long hours for a little or no pay, doing thankless tasks in hopes that one day, after getting some jackass executive his millionth cup of coffee, you finally ascend that golden ladder.

And this is where we meet Jane (Ozark‘s Julia Garner). She’s just graduated from college, moved to New York City and is now spending her days doing menial tasks so she can eventually become a big-time producer. So, it’s understandable that she gets suspicious when, out of the blue, a young girl named Ruby ( Makenzie Leigh) shows up at the office, ready to start working as an assistant. Her resume is pretty thin, as are her qualifications… she was just an extra on The Boss’ latest project. Jane sets up Ruby with a room at a swanky hotel and then sets off to tell HR about her boss’s apparent indiscretions.

And that’s about all that happens. We get a lot of scenes where Jane is fixing a copier, dealing with office supplies or cleaning up after the higher-ups. In fact, the first 30 minutes or so nothing happens at all besides this. It’s a safe bet that this is the daily life of an actual Hollywood assistant but as a film, I’d guess the average viewer is thinking, “What the hell is this movie about?”

Garner is terrific and it was oddly satisfying watch her doing these menial tasks. She does them with a purpose and it’s actually never boring. There are several great scenes – really the only scenes that matter in the film – that I wish they had more of. One is her discussion with the Human Resource manager (Succession‘s Matthew MacFadyen). He goes from a caring advisor to an aloof pre ‘Me Too’ crony. The arc of that scene is so terrific that you can bet that every acting class in America will soon have their students performing it. Another is when two coworkers are coaching Jane as she’s writing her apology email to the boss. The two coworkers most likely have been in this position before and are all too eager to show her how to draft a groveling, yet non-groveling apology. The last is where an actress is coming in to read for a role and she basically treats Jane like she doesn’t even exist. It’s something you’ve probably heard of happening dozens of times but it’s maddening to see it.

Writer/director Kitty Green’s film is ‘Me Too’ timely and even though we never see the boss, I’m pretty sure that he’s modeled after Harvey Weinstein.

Outside of the industry viewers, I’m not sure I would enjoy it. Green’s work is great as is the cast, but, if you haven’t spent any time in the entertainment business, you might find it frustratingly.

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