Jane (Julia Garner) has the opportunity of a lifetime. Working long hours to a powerful film executive, this job should be her fast track to moving up the film industry. Yet seen, through the context of a single day, Jane discovers that to be able to look the other way can also be as important as paying close attention…
…is a truly suffocating drama of the soul where every indiscretion requires a personal kowtow typed in contrition.
As a portrait of the toxic work culture inside a major film executive’s office, director Kitty Green’s dramatic debut is a suffocating series of humiliations all of which puncture both the patriarchy and the zeitgeist with a single 90-minute tour-de-force performance.
From swallowing the infantile indifference of her colleagues to being deliberately set up as the target for the executives’ ranting wife, Julia Garner’s character of Jane is a fire bucket at everyone’s else’s disposal. Drowning by the water cooler, her remaining gulps of self-respect bubble up as she tries to tip-toe through the latest razor blades put in her path. Now expected to entertain and educate a beautiful, young new assistant whose five-star resumé stops at “waitressing”, something silently snaps inside her.
In what starts out as a colder update to ‘Swimming with Sharks‘, ‘The Assistant’ becomes a truly suffocating drama of the soul where every indiscretion requires a personal kowtow typed in contrition. Also by deliberately keeping its monster out of sight throughout the film, it only adds detail with each growing affront that Jane must wear.
Walking on increasingly Fabergé-like eggshells, Julia Garner’s performance as Jane becomes quietly mesmeric. With the pressure of her oft-reminded opportunity crushing her shrill shoulders, she convincingly rattles inside a misogynistic machine that nobody wants to recognise. When finally placed in front of the equally excellent Matthew Mcfayden as the firm’s head of human resources, ‘The Assistant’ stunningly rewires the comparable ‘Bombshell’ for a much more powerful purpose.
Instead of directly trading on the injustice of the #metoo victims, Kitty Green’s script decides to examine how such behaviour could be enabled, even when seen from a critical viewpoint. So, trapped within the well-meant wishes of her family and the harvested compliments from third parties, Jane ultimately becomes a different kind of complicit devil in prada. Deliberately tough on you because it wants to make you stronger, this is one open ending that will do more than just dangle you from a powerful man’s reputation.