In the wake of predatory men such as Harvey Weinstein being unveiled in the film industry, known as the #MeToo Era, there have been a number of films which have been heralded as a key watch in this period.
However, none seem as important or crucial to watch as The Assistant.
The Assistant revolves around a day in the life of Jane, who is one of three assistants to a high-profile and powerful entertainment mogul. Jane, a college graduate and aspiring film producer, is collected by a driver in the early hours. Before anyone arrives, she has to work; cleaning the office, preparing scripts, arranging travel, and more. However, it soon becomes apparent that her boss acting inappropriately around young women and as rumours fly, Jane is caught in the middle of a possible scandal.
This unsettling work by Kitty Green, who directs, writers, and edits here, is a taut exercise into daily abuse that assistants such as Jane suffer. The film subtly threads this abhorrent routine that consists of cleaning couches, emptying bins, and ferrying young wide-eyed starlets to hotel rooms. Cleverly, the boss is never shown on screen but his presence looms like a spectre in a horror film.
Jane is constantly belittled by his aggressive phone calls or the other assistants who treat her as a maid. Green, best known for her equally chilling documentary Casting JonBenet, captures this office life greatly. Menial tasks hold such weight and it is clear early on that this man is vicious and complicit in sexual harassment and coercion. With expertly placed silences, the sounds of office gossip and machines that whir constantly, The Assistant is compelling if altogether horrifying that revels in the atmosphere of tough office life.
Julia Garner leads as Jane and she is terrific. A scene where she has to concoct an apologetic email after she has been berated, all the while trying not to show her anguish to her officemates, is a brilliant showcase of her talents. With just five weeks in the job, Jane has suffered a lot and it’s the little things Garner does that displays this; whether it’s slowly picking up a plate to wash or forgoing breakfast. In these moments, the exhaustion and loneliness hits. In a great scene between Matthew MacFayden’s HR Manager, in which Jane tries to reach out, her quiet anguish is at the forefront but is battered away. It’s a phenomenal performance.
Perhaps the most heart-breaking parts of The Assistant is where loved ones and colleagues assure her that this is a fantastic opportunity. As she works nearly a whole day in the company of her dreams, aware of the malpractice and the dark underbelly of this industry, Jane is reminded of how lucky she is to be there. Even her boss comments that he is tough to make her great. It’s with this coercion where the true terror lies; how interns and assistants can be manipulated into degrading and back-breaking work.
The Assistant is a distressing exposé on the hidden terrors of the film industry.
The Assistant is out on Digital Download 1st May