“The Assistant” – a film review by Gary Chew
The first and, so far, best Netflix series that’s snagged my attention is Ozark with Justin Bateman and Laura Linney. This show is where I first saw a diminutive, young, blonde woman playing the part a very feisty poor girl. The actor’s name is Julia Garner, the role: Ruth. The character nigh walked off with the Netflix series, even though Bateman and Linney (two fine, seasoned actors) are the leads.
When word came that Ms. Garner has the lead in a new movie-house feature, I knew it was a must-see for me. The Assistant finds Julia as another put upon female. This time she’s just come to work for an entertainment corporation. I believe the company is in the business of making motion pictures. The boss is seldom around. You only hear his voice on the phone when he’s dressing down Jane, the person Garner does in the film. He, even in his absence, seems to be making “hay” with attractive women who are wanting to get ahead in pictures. The script’s “decision” to give Garner the name “Jane” seems to make it obvious that the absentee mogul won’t be making any hits on her. I began to wonder if the movie mogul guy… maybe… might be a real person. Hmm. The script names him not.
Jane is in the office working; mostly doing tasks that a janitor or maid would do, besides the paper and filing chores, answering phones and making online travel accommodations for employees who are off for business in other places. I thought back to Garner in Ozark and began to wait for her to step up and raise a little hell for what goes down with her office treatment as The Assistant. Oh yeah, some of the office dudes are on the front line of meaninglessly dissing her. People of either sex who have a ounce of feminist in them will feel the need to grit a molar or two.
Jane does explode… uh, sort of. Her scene with the corporation’s Human Resources guy, curiously named Wilcock, is the best scene in the movie. Matthew Macfayden plays Wilcock. The mumbo-jumbo he feeds Jane in the office meeting might also raise your BP a bit.
Too bad the ruckus Jane tries to raise goes south; so unlike the comeuppance Julia Garner’s character in Ozark stirs up for her detractors. This new film was a let down for me, which goes to suggest that Kitty Green, who wrote and directed The Assistant, feels that social conditions and hassles many women must confront on the job, and even off the job, carry more weight in the telling… than putting a feel-good bouquet on the end of a film; the bouquet being that Jane finally wins out over what she’s had to endure at an office in the business of making movies. Jane wants to move up that “ladder” too.
Surely, Kitty Green has such aspirations… and likely has had to put up with such dreck in her career. That’s what makes an audience feel good and relieved: if Jane would get even, or something in return for all her trouble. Green apparently feels telling this less eventful story, which plays dull and boring, is where the heart of her endeavors lie.
Julia Garner hides her spunk in this film. As Ruth in Ozark, she hung her emotions out, sprinkling them with the bluest language you’ve likely ever heard. And that goes for all you who have spent any time in a pool hall or the military.
Hey, more of Julia Garner… please!