The Assistant (2019 film)
|Directed by||Kitty Green|
|Written by||Kitty Green|
|Distributed by||Bleecker Street|
|Box office||$1.3 million|
The Assistant is a 2019 American drama film written, directed, produced, and edited by Australian filmmaker Kitty Green. It stars Julia Garner, Matthew Macfadyen, Makenzie Leigh, Kristine Froseth, Jon Orsini, and Noah Robbins. The film had its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival on August 30, 2019. It was released on January 31, 2020, by Bleecker Street.
The film takes place over the course of a single day in the life of Jane, a junior assistant who has been working at a film production company in New York City for five weeks. Jane arrives well before dawn and performs various menial administrative tasks. Her job's long hours and demanding tasks keep her busy and incredibly stressed. During a phone call with her mother, Jane learns that she forgot to call her father on his birthday.
As Jane's day progresses, it becomes clear that her boss has been having sex in his office with many younger women and facilitating a culture of sexual harassment at the company. Many of the male executives make snide comments about the boss's affairs while the female executives handle their own workloads and discuss the possibility of transferring to other departments. Whenever Jane does something her boss deems a mistake, he verbally abuses her over the phone as her two male junior assistant coworkers watch silently. Throughout the day, a variety of 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.
In the afternoon, a young, inexperienced woman named Sienna arrives from Idaho, saying she has been offered a job as a junior assistant. Jane, concerned for Sienna's well-being, goes to the human resources department to file a report after dropping Sienna off at a five-star hotel being paid for by the company. Wilcock, the head of HR, encourages Jane to share her concerns, but later makes it clear that he is turning a blind eye to her harassment claims, before demeaning her, speaking down to her, and stating she is jealous. He also discloses that filing a formal complaint would destroy Jane's career. As Jane leaves his office, he reminds her that she has nothing to worry about, as Jane is not the boss's "type". Visibly upset, Jane receives a call from her boss when she returns to her desk. He has been informed about the unfiled report and demands Jane write an email apology addressed to him, which she does. He replies saying that he is especially hard on Jane because he knows how great she is.
Toward the end of the day, Sienna arrives at the office so Jane can teach her how to use the phone systems. As night falls, Jane prepares a microwave dinner for herself while other employees leave; her boss stays late in his office with a young actress. He calls Jane on the intercom and tells her to go home. Jane goes to a coffee shop across the street and calls her father as she eats a muffin. After she hangs up, she sees a silhouette in her boss's window appearing to have sex.
- Julia Garner as Jane, a junior assistant at a film production company
- Matthew Macfadyen as Wilcock, the head of the HR department at Jane's company
- Makenzie Leigh as Ruby, an 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 fellow 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
In September 2018, it was announced Kitty Green would write and direct the film with James Schamus and Scott Macaulay producing under their Symbolic Exchange banner. In December 2018, Julia Garner joined the cast of the film. In April 2019, Matthew Macfadyen, Kristine Froseth, Makenzie Leigh, Noah Robbins and Dagmara Domińczyk joined the cast of the film. Production concluded that same month in New York City.
The Assistant had its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival on August 30, 2019. Shortly afterwards, Bleecker Street acquired distribution rights to the film and released it in theaters on January 31, 2020.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 92% based on 235 reviews, with an average rating of 7.7/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Led by a powerhouse performance from Julia Garner, The Assistant offers a withering critique of workplace harassment and systemic oppression." On Metacritic, which assesses films on a score out of 100, The Assistant holds a score of 79 based on reviews from 43 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews."
Writing for The Guardian, Peter Bradshaw called it "a claustrophobic, intimately unsettling movie" and stated that "it can claim to be the first drama that addresses the #MeToo issue". In a similarly positive review, Moira Macdonald of the Seattle Times lauded Julia Garner's performance and described the film as "[shining] a light on a malevolent shadow". She also complimented it on being "wound taut and perfectly controlled", just like its main protagonist, making for an experience that "feels entirely real". Jeannette Catsoulis of The New York Times viewed the film as "less a #MeToo story than a painstaking examination of the way individual slights can coalesce into a suffocating miasma of harassment" and also noted Garner's lead performance, which she said "makes the slow draining of Jane's soul almost visible". Justin Chang of NPR concluded that "it's the rigorous understatement of The Assistant that makes it so powerful in its vision of how easily the Harvey Weinsteins of the world could exploit their absolute authority for years with little fear of consequence."
- "Telluride Program Guide" (PDF). Retrieved August 29, 2019.
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- D'Alessandro, Anthony (September 7, 2018). "Harvey Weinstein Assistant Feature In The Works From Kitty Green & James Schamus – Toronto". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved April 8, 2019.
- Wiseman, Andreas (December 13, 2018). "Harvey Weinstein Assistant Movie: 'Ozark' Star Julia Garner in Negotiations to Play Lead". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved April 8, 2019.
- Wiseman, Andreas (April 8, 2019). "Harvey Weinstein Assistant Movie: Matthew Macfadyen, Kristine Froseth & Makenzie Leigh Join Kitty Green Pic". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved April 8, 2019.
- Hammond, Pete (August 29, 2019). "Telluride Film Festival: 'Ford V Ferrari', 'Judy', 'Motherless Brooklyn', Weinstein-Inspired Drama 'The Assistant' Among Premieres Headed To 46th Edition – Full List". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved August 29, 2019.
- Lang, Brent (October 25, 2019). "Bleecker Street Buys Harvey Weinstein-Inspired Drama 'The Assistant'". Variety. Retrieved October 25, 2019.
- Hipes, Patrick (October 25, 2019). "Harvey Weinstein-Inspired 'The Assistant' Acquired By Bleecker Street, Will Hit Theaters In January". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved October 25, 2019.
- "The Assistant (2019)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved October 10, 2021.
- "The Assistant Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved February 6, 2020.
- Bradshaw, Peter (April 30, 2020). "The Assistant review". The Guardian. Retrieved June 8, 2020.
- Macdonald, Moira (February 11, 2020). "'The Assistant' review: This devastating look at workplace harassment shines a light on a malevolent shadow". Seattle Times. Retrieved June 8, 2020.
- Catsoulis, Jeannette (January 30, 2020). "'The Assistant' Review: Screaming on the Inside". The New York Times. Retrieved June 8, 2020.
- Chang, Justin (January 28, 2020). "'The Assistant' Helps Explain How Predatory Behavior Stays Hidden". NPR. Retrieved January 28, 2020.