The Assistant

Julia Garner in The Assistant
Verdict: 
8/10 - A subtle yet powerful drama enhanced by a terrific performance from Julia Garner.
Release Date: 
Friday, May 1, 2020
Written by: 

Julia Garner plays an assistant who becomes aware of sexual misconduct occurring in her workplace in this powerful drama.

8

Quite a few films and TV shows which address the #MeToo and Time's Up movements have been made since the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke in late 2017.

But The Assistant seems to directly depict the Weinstein case itself, from the perspective of one of his assistants.

The film was researched and written by director Kitty Green, who used these real-life stories as inspiration for her drama, which follows one day in the life of Jane (Julia Garner), a recent graduate and aspiring film producer who works as a junior assistant to a famous and powerful entertainment mogul in New York.

As Jane carries out usual assistant tasks like photocopying and making coffee, she grows increasingly aware of the insidious abuse occurring within her workplace.

 

This is a fictional exploration of workplace misconduct but it is clearly heavily influenced by the Weinstein case, with certain details matching up with victim testimony.

However, the producer Jane works for is never named or seen, so the focus is always on her.

This approach makes the film less about one person and more representative of many workplaces where employees are aware of misconduct but turn a blind eye.

The Assistant is subtler than expected and some viewers may be disappointed by this, but this decision makes sense as it's told from Jane's point of view and she never witnesses anything directly and only has suspicions about what's going on through little nuggets of information that she has pieced together.

We follow the young woman all day while she is doing menial, mundane tasks, like tidying up his office, making calls, and ordering lunch - and the hints of sexual harassment are peppered throughout.

Not much happens and if you aren't paying close attention you might miss some of the clues, but this approach is more accurate and doesn't beat audiences around the head with a message.

Garner's performance is incredible - she commands this film with minimal assistance. The 26-year-old doesn't speak much and we mostly just watch her go about her day, but she has the most expressive and emotive face and you can't help but feel for her.

If you're expecting an overly dramatic plot-driven film about sexual harassment, The Assistant may disappoint. Yet, it is an observant, powerful, and realistic account of what it is like to be a low-level employee for a sexual predator.

The Assistant is available on a variety of VOD platforms now.

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