The Assistant (2019) Film Review

The Assistant is superbly acted and infuriatingly relatable.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Writer, Director, Producer: Kitty Green
Starring: Julia Garner

With its measured plot, The Assistant focuses a lens on what it’s like to be a young woman in the film industry faced with daily abuses and discrimination.

The film follows the day in a life of recent college grad, Jane (Julia Garner), as she navigates the pressures, high demands, and sexism of being an assistant in the film industry. With each task and each decision her naïve nobleness clashes against what she must do to get ahead in her career.

Excruciating pacing

At first, the pacing of this film feels too slow, but the tension builds scene after scene as we follow Jane through seemingly mundane tasks whose stakes are higher and higher if only because of the wrath of a faceless executive who holds the fate of her career in his hands. This tension is only amplified by seemingly banal ambient soundtrack—the whir of air vents, the buzz of the printer, the clink of water glasses, the clack of keyboards, the babble of inaudible conversations.

Exceptional acting

Julia Garner delivers a well-tuned performance, matching her mannerisms to the doldrum routine. We feel her disgruntlement and isolation in a male-dominated industry that largely ignores her other than to write her emails over her shoulder and pass off unwanted tasks. She navigates this world timidly, but not without integrity. You’ll have to watch it to see what I mean.

Painfully real

I think any woman who has worked in a male-dominated industry can relate to the harsh micro aggressions that plague this work environment.

Shortcomings

There’s a serious lack of diversity. That is to say that this is a story about a woman who happens to be white and most of whose colleagues also happen to be white. Was this lack of diversity a statement the film was trying to make? There absolutely exists a lack of diversity within the film industry, but couldn’t there have been more than one other BIPOC character? I also wonder what a film about a BIPOC assistant would look like.

Many audiences may find The Assistant too slow-moving, but this highly detailed, exceptionally acted drama is well worth a watch.

Read more film reviews here.

*EDIT (Sep. 27, 2020): The original post did not include the shortcomings section.

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