Film Review – The Assistant (2019)

Title – The Assistant (2019)

Director – Kitty Green (Casting JonBenet)

Cast – Julia Garner, Matthew Macfadyen, Jon Orsini, Noah Robbins, Kristine Froseth

Plot – A look at a day in the life of lowly college graduate turned film company assistant Jane (Garner), in a time and place where business practices hide dark undercurrents.

“Welcome, have a seat” 

Review by Eddie on 24/06/2020

The very definition of a slow-burn, so much so that a photocopier going about its business feels like a momentous event, The Assistant couldn’t be a more timely film about the male dominated abuse that has flowed from the upper ranks of corporate businesses and in this case the film-making industry but Australian director Kitty Green’s simmering offerings intent to remain almost entirely muted and devoid of spark halts this drama in its tracks.

Her first foray into feature films after a string of well-received documentaries, Green showcases a keen eye and directional verve behind the camera here and its refreshing to see a female voice tackle an issue as timely and necessary to explore as the one examined in The Assistant but as a viewer you can’t help but want more from this film that feels as though its building to a crescendo, only to flicker out without even an attempt to strike us down emotionally.

Following the day to day mundane activities of Julia Garner’s Jane, who is living the unenvious life of an assistant to a never seen studio CEO, a job which includes babysitting his children and listening to abusive phone calls from her detestable sounding boss, The Assistant literally makes us feel as though we are a fly on the wall to Jane’s depressing life, which is a credit to the film but also a detrimental facet to the feature as we await, but never get a moment of true outrage or a moment worth remembering.

The performance of Garner is impressive, dialed back to the point of almost non-existence, Jane is very much a plain everyday character, one that’s hard to read or get a feel for, but she’s front and centre throughout the piece that only really offers her a worthy counterpart when Matthew Macfadyen’s HR boss comes into the picture and you become even more aware that the potentially nefarious and horrific things that go on in Jane’s workplace are not only tolerated but largely ignored.

You can see what Green is going for with all the various sly references to happenings around the place, embedding them into the everyday to showcase how tolerant we can become to issues that should be very far from commonplace but you just can’t help but wish as a viewer you were getting more from this film, as watching everyday office work and day to day activities of someone we barely know or don’t get to understand makes for rather tiresome viewing, even at a brisk under 90 minute runtime.

Final Say – 

The Assistant has important themes and issues to explore but the at first gripping realistic approach quickly gives way to a mostly boorish plot line that fails to deliver an emotional kick or moment that would’ve made all the photocopying and phone calls worth enduring as a viewer.

2 HR visits out of 5 

3 responses to “Film Review – The Assistant (2019)

  1. “The very definition of a slow-burn, so much so that a photocopier going about its business feels like a momentous event…” — Ha! Completely with you there.

    The trailers made me think there was going to be a Brian de Palma minus-the-blood psychological atmosphere. I didn’t have the experience I anticipated, but it did inspire a poem.

    • In many ways it was really well-filmed and acted, I just felt like the power wasn’t there even if their whole point seemed to be about how misbehavior is accepted in everyday life.

  2. Pingback: Film Review – The Assistant (2019) — Jordan and Eddie (The Movie Guys) – Chicago FEEDBACK Film Festival·

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