The Assistant (2019) Movie Review
Unlike all the other reviews you’ve read for the sterling drama The Assistant, this review will not reference the #MeToo movement nor namecheck Harvey Weinstein since his portly shadow permeates nearly every frame of the movie.
At least until the third paragraph.
Before we get to the review, I want to know how you’re doing. I want you to know that I care about you not just as a reader, but as a person. Mostly as a reader. I hope you’re doing well and I hope you’ve received the care package I so lovingly prepared for you.
It’s not much, but it was made with great love. Even if we’re apart, I just want you to know how much I think about you. I’d go over to your house if I could and give you a big hug, but that might send you to the hospital.
Because you’re Asian and you and your kind started this mess.
No, because I give great big hugs and one time I broke our friend Brad’s ribs and he had to go to the hospital. When he was at the hospital the doctor amputated his leg and then he died of syphilis.
If I had a nickel for every time that happened after I gave someone a hug…
You said you sent me/us a care package? What was in it?
Nothing much. About 2 months’ worth of 5-ply toilet tissue and various meat products.
I never got mine.
It probably got lost in the mail. I labeled it “2 Months’ Worth of Toilet Tissue and Various Meat Products” in a huge black marker all over the box. I can’t imagine why anyone would steal it.
I bet Karen took it. F*ck Karen.
Speaking of Karen, she’d like to speak to your manager.
Speaking of managers, Jane, the main character in the drama/quiet thriller The Assistant, seems to have a lot of them. All of them are under the oppressive thumb of an unseen Harvey Weinstein-ish boss.
Just step into my office and we’ll get right to the synopsis. It’s just us all alone. You don’t need to tell anyone what happens here. Don’t bother to bring your phone or any kind of recording device. And make sure you take a sip out of the drink I give to you directly. It’s a perfectly fine drink that I haven’t put any illicit substances in.
What’s the matter? Why are you going away? Don’t you want this job? Don’t you want to read the synopsis? And then read what works and doesn’t work?
I’m feeling really uncomfortable right now. I don’t want to be alone in a room with you.
I heard you were hungry. I heard you wanted this job. There are millions of others more qualified than you who would kill for this. Why don’t you show me how grateful you can be and come in. Have a drink. Slip your shoes off. Get comfortable. We’ll enjoy this synopsis together.
BEHIND CLOSED DOORS SYNOPSIS- Don’t bother to tell anyone because they won’t believe you.
Julia Garner (Ozark, Maniac, and about a dozen other things you see on Netflix) plays Jane. She’s a low level assistant for what looks like a pretty high level movie producer in New York city. She graduated from Northwestern and wants to produce movies eventually.
Jane is really qualified for this job. She works hard. It doesn’t pay much and the hours are exceptionally long. But it is a great steppingstone and there are hundreds of people ready to replace her if she can’t hack it.
Jane comes into work early in the AM. Well before her male peers.
We see a montage of her doing various mundane garbage tasks (sometimes literally) while her higher-ups barely notice her.. She’s at work so much she missed her dad’s birthday.
If Jane keeps it up she’ll more than likely miss her dad’s funeral.
We notice Jane doing all the sh*t jobs around the office while her douchebro male co-workers just talk on the phone and play Fortnite.
We make up it’s just because Jane is new and she has to pay her dues. Times are tough for all new employees. If she keeps her chin up, puts her head down and all those other clichés, it’ll pay off eventually.
At first I thought Jane wears the same outfit every day as she does her soul-killing job, but then we realize that this movie takes place during one specific workday.
No wonder white people go postal.
Anyway, Jane knows this is just a starter job and it won’t be long before she’s another rung up the ladder.
One of Jane’s many jobs is to set up and confirm flights to LA. She also books hotels and makes reservations for her boss and his many underlings.
Jane has noticed in her 5 months of working for Garvey Feinstein that there are many girls her age or younger that are put up in hotels in and around town.
Jane’s male co-workers also make her take the boss’ wife’s calls. Wife is always wondering, always yelling as to where Charvey Weinstein is. Of course Jane can’t give Wife a straight answer because she really doesn’t know and she can’t just blurt out “Probably violating some underage girl just off the bus.” That draws the ire of both Wife and Boss.
And it’s not even lunch time yet.
Later in the afternoon, Jane is asked to put a girl up at a fancy hotel nearby. She’s young. She’s beautiful. She’s been waiting tables in the Midwest. What could the Boss possibly want with her?
Jane knows. And she’ll spend the rest of the day wondering if she should do the right thing or keep her job. Knowing no answer will give her peace, but will she at least be able to look at herself in the mirror?
What Works With The Assistant
- A quietly poignant performance by Julia Garner. She’s been doing excellent supporting work on TV for years. Now she gets to carry a movie on her own and she’s never been better. After the credits roll you realize Garner doesn’t have a lot of dialogue and most of what she does have is spoken quietly. You hope for the best for Jane and you wish for her soul to be intact long after the credits roll.
- An “interview” scene with Succession’s Matthew MacFayden shows you the oppression Jane is up against. Writer/director Kitty Green never throws #MeToo in your face because she’s too good a writer for that. But everyone who watches that scene knows that Jane is playing a rigged game (“You’re not his type”).
- One of the best villains of 2019 was one we didn’t even see onscreen. Everyone knows “Boss” is a reference to Weinstein (“Never sit on the couch”), but also an indictment on an entire system.
What Doesn’t Work With The Assistant
- When you get right down to it, The Assistant is (spoiler) mostly about a white woman’s workday. It’s 90% dialogue and watching Garner walk around the office. To some, that might be tedious. If that’s the case I’m sure you can watch another Fast and Furious movie or sit through Tiger King again.
If I can assist you in seeing this excellently subdued drama/thriller, that would make me incredibly happy.