A trenchant drama of corporate harassment through a young-worker's perspective.
“It’s not my place to question your decisions. I’m grateful for the continued opportunity.” Jane (Julia Gardner) to her boss (Tony Torn)
Jane is a recent college grad who has taken a new job in the city with a media-related firm that has her as an assistant who fears more will be asked of her than the usual go-fer tasks. The above quote just about summarizes her abasement after Boss discovers Jane has complained to HR about his seemingly-predatory practices with young aspirants.
Writer-director Kitty Green has perceptively caught in The Assistant what we all suspected from the Harvey-Weinstein debacle—the sexism and sexual harassment that seem almost a part of a low-level young woman’s job description. Plain Jane is constantly on camera, frequently in closeups and peering around the office finding stains on the couch she must clean and compromising conversations she must overhear. These shots do nothing to make her appealing other than to mark her as a good girl caught in compromising situations.
With little affect, Jane is the willing subordinate who might compromise herself should Boss advance on her but who probably is free of the harassment because she is “not his type.” So says the HR officer, who listens to her concerns about her boss’s predations with new or potential hires.
This scene should be seen by anyone who wants a feel for the imbalances in Weinstein-like worlds, where HR just might tell what you complained about to the Boss and co-workers, and where the fear that she might be fired if she complains keeps her from formally complaining. Jane must be complicit by not complaining or she will lose her precious job. Green makes a compelling case for the gloomy perspective through scenes that demean the protagonist and the office crew.
The Assistant has a Seinfeld theme of being about nothing but really everything. The rumbles are underneath the surface and almost undetectable, so the surface seems cool and accommodating. Yet, looking at Jane’s bland face and seeing her capitulate to power and advancement makes on want to certify every minute Harvey stays behind bars.
Director: Kitty Green (Casting JonBenet)
Cast: Julia Garner (Frank Miller’s Sin City)
Run Time: 1h 27m
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JohnDeSando62@gmail.com