Australian director Kitty Green takes a leaf from the great Alfred Hitchcock with The Assistant, a film teetering with savagery and insidiousness. What brings power to this story, is that the enemy is never seen, only anticipated and lurking someplace in our imagination; and the environment and supporting characters that enables sexual abuse to snowball into a unsurmountable cat and mouse situation.
The Assistant is told through the eyes of intern Jane (a superb Julia Garner) during the course of day in the office of a mega film industry magnate. Jane shares the front office with two male assistants who also inflict similar yet subtle power plays over her. For instance, when the boss’ temperamental wife calls, the phone is passed to Julia to deal with. When Jane does interact with the boss, it is only ever seen via phone; being shouted at one minute, the next, gentle words to justify his harshness towards her.
In an act of taking some of the power back, Jane decides to go to HR to make a report. What she doesn’t bargain on is the robotic and cold face of Wilcock (class act Matthew Macfadyen) who puts up wall after wall as a dead end to her inquiries. The realisation as to how far the enablement of the behaviour goes is palpable and shocking.
What seemingly plays out as a series of vignettes of a day in the life of an office intern, speaks darkly of the subliminal abuse experienced in offices across the globe. It could be an office anywhere, going through the same kitchen sink chats, the comings and goings of couriers, and the gentle hum of copiers as ambience. What lurks underneath is unsettling.
The Assistant has been credited as the first film to address the #MeToo movement. Thinking about it long after the credits roll, it’s unbelievable how this behaviour had continued unchecked for as long as it did.
The Assistant is screening now on Foxtel. Available for rent on Google Play, iTunes, Fetch TV, Telstra Bigpond, Sony (Playstation Network), Microsoft and Quickflix from 24 June 2020.
About The Assistant
Running time: 87 minutes
Written and directed by Kitty Green
Stars: Julia Garner, Matthew Macfadyen, Makenzie Leigh, Kristine Froseth, Jon Orsini, Noah Robbins, Alexander Chaplin, Jay O. Sanders, Juliana Canfield, Dagmara Dominczyk