In Kitty Green‘s narrative debut ‘The Assistant‘, we follow one day in the life of Jane (Julia Garner – ‘Ozark‘), a recent college graduate and aspiring film producer, who has 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. But as Jane follows her daily routine, she, and we, grow increasingly aware of the abuse that insidiously colours every aspect of her work day, an accumulation of degradation against which Jane decides to take a stand, only to discover the true depth of the system into which she has entered.
The condition of being involved with others in an activity that is unlawful or morally wrong, that’s the definition of the word “complicity”. Just like Jane, it’s up to every one of us to address wrongdoings wherever we work or live. The film, very much inspired by the entire Harvey Weinstein-scandal, in which he used his power to mentally and physically abuse upcoming and existing talent in Hollywood. This all exploded into the ‘Me Too’-movement, where women (and men) of all ages and background came forward to address the sexual abuse and intimidation they had to endure throughout their careers and personal lives.
The Assistant plays like a whistleblower kind of story, in which we follow Jane, who is trying to stop her boss’ behaviour, before things get even more out of control. Throughout the day, we meet her co-workers, who may or may not be aware of the immoral crimes that are going on behind-the-scenes, as they push Jane in a direction to keep her job safe and her mouth shut. We, as the audience, never leave her side, and even though Jane doesn’t say a lot, keeping a composed and professional attitude, we can feel the anger boiling deep inside her as it transcends into us.
The many smaller production companies attached to the film show that director/writer Green probably had a harder time to get this made. The story stays quite simple, which shows her talent in film making as she could’ve easily gone for full on shock value to keep a more mainstream audience entertained. Every action and camera shot speaks for itself, while Garner gives another career defining performance, after winning an Emmy for her work in ‘Ozark’.
The Assistant makes you feel just as powerless as its protagonist, while the subtle signs of intimidation pile up. Kitty Green handles her powerful #MeToo-statement with a unique vision, keeping the ball rolling to remind everyone there’s still a lot of issues that need to be resolved.
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Review – ‘The Assistant’
Reviewed online, May 11, 2020. Rating: M. Running time: 87 min.
PRODUCTION: A Vertigo Releasing release of a 3311 Productions, Bellmer Pictures, Cinereach, Forensic Films, JJ Homeward Productions, Level Forward, Symbolic Exchange production. Producers: P. Jennifer Dana, Scott Macaulay, James Schamus. Executive producers: Abigail Disney, Philipp Engelhorn, Avy Eschenasy, Leah Giblin, John Howard, Sean King O’Grady.
CREW: Director/screenplay: Kitty Green. Camera: Michael Latham. Editors: Kitty Green, Blair McClendon. Music: Tamar-kali.
WITH: Julia Garner, Matthew Macfadyen, Makenzie Leigh, Kristine Froseth, Jon Orsini, Noah Robbins, Stéphanye Dussud, Juliana Canfield, Alexander Chaplin, Dagmara Dominczyk.