Director: Kitty Green
Screenwriter: Kitty Green
Cast: Julia Garner, Kristine Frosted, Noah Robbins, Jon Orsini, Matthew Macfadyen
“The Assistant” follows Jane, played by Julia Garner, best known for her starring role in Netflix’s hit series “Ozark”. While working for an executive film producer, she begins to recognize the predatory behavior that is condoned in the office. There are three assistants working in the office, two men and one woman. As we watch Jane go through her work day, it’s made clear she’s doing most of the work. You especially see her often cleaning up after other coworkers, which her fellow male assistants are never seen doing. While her male coworkers are seen handling true business calls or real matter at their desks, Jane is dealing with the executives “dirty work”, such as teaching his house cleaner how to assemble a vacuum, entertaining coworker’s kids, lie to his wife about his whereabouts and being the only assistant that works weekends. I believe that the slow and subtle tone that is kept throughout the film speaks to how this type of toxic environment silently lingers in too many places of work that are majorly run by men.
As a new woman assistant is hired, Jane quickly notices the difference in her reason for hire compared to her own. The obviously gorgeous and young new assistant, Sienna, played by Kristine Froseth, has only held a waitressing job, whereas Jane is a film school graduate and has worked several internships before being able to land this job. The difference in treatment became apparent when the new assistant had been put up in a luxurious hotel after acquiring the job and Jane was never given any sort of living assistance. A haunting scene takes place as Jane meets with HR, a man, to share her concerns of the new assistant, explaining how the young girl had been given the job after meeting the executive while she was his waitress and how he is now spending time with her at the hotel. While acting confused, he responds by questioning if the woman has been rude to Jane or if she is doing anything specific to harm the company. This man’s complete avoidance of the dangerous situation holds truth to the tolerance of this behavior by powerful men.
After attempting to complain, Jane is advised that if she follows through with her claims that she will lose her job. The man working for HR reminds her that her job will put her on the fast track to becoming the film producer she aspires to be. He uses manipulative tactics to keep her quiet and complaisant. He assures her not to worry about him by letting her know that she’s not the executives “type”. Jane is continually fed emptied approval, so she can continue to act as her boss wants her to. As a women, the whole film is extremely frustrating to watch. It’s as though the main character is in some sort of utopian world where no one else around her understands the inappropriate behavior. The film ends with Jane ending her work day late at night while her boss is still entertaining a young aspiring actress in his office. The film ending in no justice for the woman experiencing the abuse of power implies how easily these situations get ignored and shows just how these type of men continue to win.
“The Assistant” can be found on the streaming service Hulu. The Independent Spirit Awards has nominated Julia Garner for Best Female Lead, Kitty Green for Best first Screenplay and Michael Latham for Best Cinematography. The Gotham Independent Film Awards has nominated the film for Best Feature.