Sundance 2020: The Assistant

Julia Garner in Kitty Green’s The Assistant. Photo by Ty Johnson/Luminary Productions LLC. Courtesy of Bleecker Street.

The Assistant focuses on the day in the life of one entertainment mogul’s junior assistant but there is more here than meets the eye.

Jane (Julia Garner) gets her dream job.  She wants to be a movie producer and honestly, there’s no better place to work.  Or so she thinks.  Jane might be doing everything you’d expect to see someone do in an office.  However, things start to grow unsettling early on in the film.  The fact that this film only focuses on one day is rather telling.  I don’t even want to imagine the type of things that get unearthed if this film focused on a longer time period.  What we see on screen should already be unsettling enough as things currently stand.

It’s Jane’s responsibility to train a new hire.  The fact that the new hire has zero experience for the job is an immediate red flag.  Putting her up in a luxurious hotel should be the real red flag.  This is when Jane has had enough.  But will anyone bother to listen?

Writer-director-editor Kitty Green certainly does her research to capture the daily workings of an office.  Listen, we knowing going into the film that there are aspects that won’t be pretty.  Even though we never see the mogul’s face, the film is clearly inspired by the stories about Harvey Weinstein.  There’s no denying that Harvey is a monster.  What’s truly so disappointing is how other men like Wilcock (Matthew MacFadyen) just turn the other way upon abuse being reported.  Green gives the film a very intimate setting.  Moreover, the camera follows Jane and only Jane.  The film practically becomes a showcase for Julia Garner’s acting.

It may have taken until the fall of 2017 for the #MeToo stories to go public but it’s obvious that people knew what happened.  We hear stories all the time about how actors or other executives turned the other way.  It’s not that they didn’t know but that knew something happened but were too afraid of going public.  Jane doesn’t have this fear of speaking up at the company.  However, she runs into what so many people before her have dealt with.  By opening up and reporting a case of abuse, it’s all for nothing when her superiors look the other way.

The Assistant is an effective film not so much because of what is said but because of what’s left unsaid.

CAST:  Julia Garner, Matthew MacFadyen, Makenzie Leigh, Kristine Froseth, Jon Orsini, and Noah Robbins

The Assistant held its Utah premiere during the 2020 Sundance Film Festival in the Spotlight program. Bleecker Street opened The Assistant in theaters on January 31, 2020. Grade: 4/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.