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Review: The Assistant

The Assistant is the #MeToo movement’s searing indie alternative to Bombshell. It’s a slow observational drama that follows a day in the life of a junior assistant to a powerful media executive who is never named, or even seen. The boss-man is just sporadically heard, feared, revered and referred to by various people in the office, where actors, production executives and pretty young things wander in and out throughout the day to conduct “business” – however that may be defined.

The assistant, Jane (Julia Garner, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, TV’s Modern Love, Ozark, Dirty John, The Americans) is a recent college graduate (from my alma mater Northwestern) and aspiring producer. She knows she has to pay her dues doing typical mundane assistant stuff – first one in, last one out of the office; coffee runs; arranging travel; making copies; fixing a paper jam; ordering lunch; working the phones; onboarding a new hire. But there’s an undercurrent of degradation that grows increasingly apparent. A mix of subtle and not-so-subtle duties and passive-aggressive emails and interactions that make Jane uncomfortable – to the point where she decides to take a stand and reach out to Human Resources.

The HR guy (Matthew Macfadyn) appears sympathetic at first but turns out to be just another in a long line of enablers. He effectively spins things around to make Jane question her own actions and motives, and he reminds her just how many people out there would kill for her job. It’s a foot in the door to the industry, and if you’re not up to playing the game, it’s your choice and prerogative to leave. Been there, done that!

The Assistant is raw, authentic, thought-provoking and timely (hello, Harvey Weinstein) but also really, really slow. Eighty minutes feels like a long time to wait for this one disturbing day to end… for junior assistant Jane, and for #MeToo.

 

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