Assistant, The (2020): Australian Kitty Green’s Relevant Feature Debut

Australian filmmaker Kitty Green wrote, directed, produced, and edited The Assistant, a timely critique of workplace harassment and systemic oppression, featuring Julia Garner in a powerful performance.

Grade: B (*** out of *****)

The Assistant
The Assistant poster.jpeg

Theatrical release poster

It stars Julia Garner, Matthew Macfadyen, Makenzie Leigh, Kristine Froseth, Jon Orsini, and Noah Robbins.

The film world premiered at the 2019 Telluride Film Fest, and was released by Bleecker Street on January 31, 2020, just before the pandemic.  This worthy feature is now available on DVD.

Set over the course of a single da, The Assistant depicts the life of Jane, a junior assistant working at a film production company in New York City for five weeks.

Jane arrives early (sometimes before dawn) and performs all kinds of administrative tasks. Her job’s long hours keep her busy–and stressed. Her mother reminds her that she had forgotten to call her father on his birthday.

We learn that her boss is having sex in his office with younger women, and also enables a culture of sexual harassment at the workplace. The male execs make snide comments about the boss’s affairs, while their female counterparts handle their own workloads.

Whenever Jane commits a mistake, her boss verbally abuses her, while her two male junior assistant coworkers watch silently.

Throughout the day, various people from the boss’s life interact with Jane, including his wife, his children’s nanny, a famous actor, and a group of Chinese film producers.

While thematically the film is relevant, artistically it leaves much to be desired.  The director struggles with establishing the right tone and tempo for her text, which contains many sluggish sequences.

Timely and well intentioned, The Assistant feels too much like a first feature, and I hope she improves her technical skills with her next assignment.

Credits:

Directed by Kitty Green
Produced by Green, Scott Macaulay, P. Jennifer Dana, Ross Jacobson

Written by Kitty Green
Music by Tamar-kali
Cinematography Michael Latham
Edited by Green and Blair McClendon

Production companies: Symbolic Exchange, 3311 Productions, Level Forward
Cinereach, Forensic Films, Bellmer Pictures, JJ Homeward Productions

Distributed by Bleecker Street

Release date: August 30, 2019 (Telluride); January 31, 2020 (US)

Running time: 87 minutes

Cast
Julia Garner as Jane, a junior assistant
Matthew Macfadyen as Wilcock, the head of the HR department
Makenzie Leigh as Ruby, aspiring actress
Kristine Froseth as Sienna, a newly hired junior assistant
Alexander Chaplin as Max
Juliana Canfield as Sasha
Dagmara Domińczyk as Ellen
Bregje Heinen as Tatiana
Clara Wong as Tess
Patrick Breen as Roy
Jon Orsini and Noah Robbins as Jane’s junior assistants
Purva Bedi as an executive assistant and Jane’s immediate boss
Migs Govea and Daoud Heidami as film executives.
Patrick Wilson as an actor