'The Assistant' Review: Hello Julia Garner, This Is Conscience Calling. Do You Have A Minute?
”Slow and steady wins the race”, perhaps best describes the ambition that The Assistant has. The slow-moving drama is a narrative feature debut for director-writer Kitty Green, previously known for her documentary work and follows Jane (played by Julia Garner), an assistant working for a film production company. Following at first her mundane day-to-day routines there, her profession soon meets her morals as her boss' abusive and unprofessional behaviour becomes way too hard to simply ignore. It’s a rather sophisticated take on the subject, showing the destructive behaviour quietly in more of a character study.
Sound is used as a force which can be odd considering that there’s no explosive dialogue or effects happening. The endless ringing of phones and clacking of keyboards surround the office as the talks behind closed doors are muffled and disrupted. Whenever her boss calls Jane, the actual volume that we hear isn’t important but the weight of the yelling is. Similarly silence can be deafening as Jane often can’t or won’t find the words to say, the power dynamics are fully showing in her interactions. One scene where she does open up is a crucial one: she goes to HR to speak with manager Wilcock (Matthew Macfadyen) and here the words say more than just one thing. It’s wonderful acting by both Garner and Macfadyen.
I was surprised to see the runtime of less than 90 minutes considering the topic. Similarly I was surprised after it finished since it didn’t feel like a fully told film and it was because there could’ve been use for actual inner struggle and retrospection, especially after the HR scene. For the whole time Garner does the best she can with what she got so it’s a little bit disappointing. This is though usual for first time directors and writers as they can obsess more with completing the film rather than putting their own stamp on it. But the technical work is solid enough to not make it feel like a waste of time.
Smileys: Sound editing, set decoration
So much food was wasted.