#MeToo set off a firestorm against inappropriate behavior surrounding sexual harassment instigated by allegations toward Hollywood heavyweight Harvey Weinstein. Well, fresh on the heels of Weinstein’s trial, Kitty Green brings us The Assistant.
With very little dialogue and extreme close-ups, Green more than effectively captures the uncomfortable climate in the entertainment industry workplace. From the constant verbal abuse, chiding from co-workers and meticulous attention to detail, The Assistant will make you cringe at the arrogance of men blatantly disrespecting women in their lives from their wife, mistress, aspiring young actresses to their most trusted co-worker – their assistant.
Jane (Julia Garner) is a junior assistant to a prominent entertainment executive, a man whose face we never see. Over the course of 24 hours, we witness Jane face a multitude of degradations and hostilities (from both men and women), which she stoically processes and quietly goes about her mundane tasks with an attitude of someone who is used to this type of treatment. Just when we think that nothing can be done about her growing discomfort, Jane takes action leading to a fascinating depiction of the mechanics that lead to abuse of power.
The film is just as haunting and powerful as it predecessor ‘9 to 5’ was in the 70’s starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton. 9 to 5 insured four pieces of legislation being passed and fostered by the National Association of Working Women. Kitty Green has pledged that 10% of the profits from The Assistant will go to The New York Women’s Foundation making sure that women know they have a support system outside the workplace.
At a Q&A afterwards, National Domestic Workers Alliance rep Ai-jen Poo stated that the best way to understand the system is to look through the person who has the least bit of power in the system…it’s like witnessing and bearing a thousand cuts.”
The final image of Jane watching her boss engaging in sleazy behavior in shadow and that moment when she goes to Human Resources and the ‘male’ rep tells her ‘don’t worry…you’re not his type’ are moments like sear through my consciousness like a razor blade. Judge for yourself when The Assistant hits screens on January 31.