OTTAWA’S CINEMA FOR INTERNATIONAL AND INDEPENDENT MOVIES

The Assistant

A searing, telling drama for the #MeToo era

Real-life names aren’t necessary in this harrowing tale of a sexual predator protected by his power and by the cowed people around him.

Poster for the #MeToo drama The AssistantAn unseen entertainment mogul haunts Kitty Green’s flawless thriller The Assistant, a hawkeyed probe into systemic abuses of power, set before the era of #MeToo. Harvey Weinstein is the obvious inspiration for the bigwig, and we get sufficient clues: a New York-based movie production house, a gruff, eerily familiar voice off-camera, the havoc he leaves in his wake. But Green never name-checks the now-ousted producer. Thanks to this approach – examining not a single offender but instead a suffocating culture of silence, peopled by enablers – the understated film builds into a gut punch that’s more painful than anything in the recent Roger Ailes exposé Bombshell.

Before then, we watch a day in the work life of the selflessly committed office newbie Jane (Julia Garner of ‘Ozark’, finding astonishing emotional precision in the smallest details). Green, a director of provocative nonfiction films like Casting JonBenet, observes Jane’s routine with a documentarian’s clear-eyed compassion and delicate, rhythmic discipline: Jane makes copies, scrubs appalling stains out of the boss’s couch, recovers a piece of incriminating jewelry and drafts humiliating apologies when she is unfairly blamed for mistakes. A pair of seasoned male assistants guides her, adding to her intimidation with their arrogance.

Garner’s breathtakingly controlled performance is a symphony ofwithheld tears and suppressed screams. You wonder if Jane will eventually snap, but Green doesn’t grant us that release. Instead, she amplifies Jane’s suffering with a vigilant camera that’s fixated on her quiet isolation in a banal, unglamorous office. Here, the only relief is knowing that a watershed moment is on the horizon. 

– Tomris Laffly, Time Out

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