Director: Kitty Green
Starring: Julia Garner
Kitty Green’s first feature film is fine, if you’re looking for nothing more than a point. Beyond that, The Assistant has very little to offer, especially not acting, music, a narrative, a path toward an ultimate emotion; you know, those things that most movies seem to offer us because that’s what we want from them. Instead, this film has a very specific message, and it’s up to audiences to decide whether that message feels important or produced. I’ve seen some critics calling this the best feature of 2020, but that can only be because they agree with what it’s trying to say, it can’t be because the content itself is of high quality; it simply isn’t, I don’t think that’s arguable, and the lack thereof was enough to push me far away.
Jane is an assistant to a powerful player in the media industry, and supposedly this is her big chance to make it and someday be a high-caliber producer herself. But for now, the job is coming in before everyone else, doing every single thing no one else wants to do, and leaving after everyone else goes home. It’s a thankless job, a grueling job, a terrible experience, and somehow is supposed to be her lucky break, which she can’t quite reconcile. It doesn’t help that her boss is probably a misogynist, probably an adulterer, probably doesn’t care about a single person other than himself, and is currently ruining Jane’s life, as she fights to advance in a world that really doesn’t want her to.
At some point while watching, I realized that I was supposed to feel sorry for this young woman. And not just that, but I was supposed to be seeing every working woman within her character and feeling sorry for each of them as well, while reflecting back on the entire history of women trying to crack the door into the boy’s club, harnessing all the empathy I had available to do so. Well, honestly, I don’t have much there period, and I definitely didn’t understand at first that I was supposed to be handing it out so generously. I understand the point, I understand the glass ceiling, but I don’t think that idea was delivered very well in this film; I just wanted Jane to quit her job and go find something better, screw them, take care of yourself. I didn’t feel sorry for her situation; she chose it for herself, and didn’t seem at all capable of standing up for anything, no matter how important. I know that’s not how I was supposed to react to this story, I was supposed to see it as a grand feminist projection. But, while I consider myself an extremely progressive modern man, Green’s shot was off and she missed me completely; she is an amateur, after all. Garner isn’t much more than that herself, and decided to have a single expression on her face for the whole, short 80 minutes, which isn’t exactly the best. Perhaps the moral would have been better received had the delivery been of better quality; perhaps we’ll never know.
My rating: ☆ ☆