Movie Review: The Assistant

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The_Assistant.jpg

3-stars

R |

Director: Kitty Green

Writer: Kitty Green

by Jason Koenigsberg

The Assistant is the first movie to be green lit that deals with what it must have been like to work for Harvey Weinstein, but it likely will not be the last. This movie could be called ‘A Day in the Life of an Assistant at Miramax’. This movie starts out as a subtle jab at Weinstein, but by the end, the trouble has brewed so much, our main character Jane, played eloquently by Julia Garner, is aware that something is rotten and it might boil over. The audience all knows that something did eventually boil over as the disgraced movie moguls philandering ways caught up with him as Weinstein now goes through a trial in a New York court. Having The Assistant take place in New York is key even though most of the movie is inside an office. Miramax had a main office in New York City, and so does Fox News which was the subject of a similar and much more blatant picture Bombshell about the fall of Fox News boss Roger Ailes, another prominent male figure in the media who used his power to pressure women into performing sexual favors and work in a toxic office environment. On the surface these movies should be similar, but stylistically they could not be any more opposite. Bombshell was in your face and had characters talk to the screen to spell everything out for you. The Assistant is subtle even when it does not have to be. The audience and the title character are aware something is afoot, something that does not sit well with her and would not sit well with most people just based on the fact that it has to be kept a secret. Her coworkers all know it but they discuss it in whispers, in jokes, and at bars after work. 

The opening shot is a car at night waiting outside a row of houses. A girl comes out and gets into the backseat of the car. The audience later learns that this girl is the main character, an assistant for a movie production company, and that it is not at night but very early in the morning as she leaves from her apartment in Astoria, Queens to get to the office before anyone else to set up for the day. The Assistant is literally the day in the life of this character and her entry level position. From the morning she arrives until late at night when she is one of the last people to leave the office the camera follows her during her seemingly mundane routine. Julia Garner gives a nuanced performance and she has to since so much of The Assistant relies on her acting. She is in practically every frame of the film so it needed a strong yet subtle performance for it to work. She succeeds and therefore the movie succeeds. Writer/director Kitty Green must have experience working at this type of position, not necessarily for Miramax, but a thankless job where she had to work tirelessly and was invisible to people with a salary bigger than hers. She frames the picture in an almost OCD manner with characters in elevators and at windows within the lines of the sets behind them always looking cold and sterile. Most of the men that walk past Jane are faceless. She puts up with verbal abuse from her boss over the phone. This workplace is clearly a boys club, it seems like everyone is dumping on our main character. She is the only one we see cleaning, as well as answering the phones, and doing the normal office work the other male assistants are doing. But even the males at her level know that they need her to do certain tasks and she willingly yet reluctantly obliges them. This is what is expected from her and she knows it. 

The sounds of the office are not very pretty either. The phones ringing, the copy machine, distant conversations in the background, The Assistant is the anti-Office from the Steve Carell sitcom. In fact this movie could have used some natural humor just to liven the mood up a little bit and allow the audience a reason to smile. All of those sound effects give an ominous tone to the workplace and the film. This movie is not dialogue driven but the images and sounds thrust the story forward. As stated before The Assistant is very subtle and allows the viewer to figure out what is going on as our hero is figuring it out. She knows something is not kosher, and so do we. I called Jane our hero and she is the protagonist in the film but do not expect The Assistant to have any great arc or conclusion. If you are seeking that, go see Bombshell. The Assistant is as much of a social commentary about the hard work with no satisfaction or reward that millions of young Americans have to go through each day, hoping to one day get a piece of the pie, not necessarily the piece that Harvey Weinstein got from all of those women that accused him of sexual assault. 

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