Flawless And Perfect
It's been well over two years since the #metoo movement began - A movement in which many see sexual abuse, predators and their victims as the ONLY topics that are relevant to the issue. Kitty Green’s revolutionary masterpiece, The Assistant is a psychologically unsettling extraction of this ignorance. The Assistant is the first film that I believe really portrays the Me Too movement 100% accurately because it revolves around the toxic system that continuously protects predators from consequences. Kitty Green interviewed around 100 women regarding this system and the research really shows.
The Assistant takes place over the course of a single workday seen through the eyes of Jane (Ozark’s Julia Garner). Jane is a recent college graduate and aspiring film producer who lands a job as a junior assistant at a prestigious Manhattan film production company to a powerful entertainment tycoon. The name of this predator is never revealed. He is referred to by everyone like him, he or his throughout the film. Sometimes, audiences will hear his voice when Jane is on the phone with him or when he’s in the office behind her but you never see him face to face. He’s this phantom whose presence is acknowledged but never his actions.
Jane's work ethic is higher than any skyscraper Manhattan has. She’s up super early in the morning and is always the first one to arrive. She doesn’t leave until late at night when everyone else has left. By the time The Assistant begins, she’s been working at the company for only five weeks but is already overly familiar with the atmosphere. From making coffee to printing headshots, ordering lunch, making travel accommodations and taking phone messages, Jane has her work cut out for her.
Throughout the day, signs of misconduct repeat themselves. They start with her scrubbing white stains off of the coach (Which her male co-workers joke never to sit on), finding an earring on the floor which an embarrassed women later stops by to pick up and seeing another women in the bathroom who has clearly been crying, dabbing her eyes with paper towels and having to contend with “his” wife who calls her constantly in fits of rage demanding to know where “he” is and who is “he” with now. The arrival of a new assistant from Idaho (Kristine Froseth) whom Jane is tasked with escorting to the luxury hotel she’s been put up in (The same hotel she knows her boss will be at) is the final straw for her before she seeks help from the human resources director (Succession’s Matthew Macfadyen).
The scene between them is almost fifteen minutes and is very upsetting because he takes no hesitation in making her feel ridiculous and regretful of coming to him. Emotionally, it’s more than brutal: It’s barbaric. Emotionally barbaric is actually how I would describe the whole film and that’s a compliment because films about the Me Too movement often present themselves as scandalously exciting. The Assistant is decent enough to never go down that path.
Garner’s performance is flawless and the reason why is the same reason The Assistant as a whole is so disturbing. Garner didn’t just portray Jane, she portrayed herself. Every woman has a bit of Jane inside her. The reality is that even if you’re never personally sexually harassed or assaulted, (Which sadly for a woman I gather is EXTREMELY rare) all women live with this unspoken acknowledgment that they could witness or experience sexual violation at any given moment just for simply existing.
Living in the caution of sexual predators every day is a reality all women share. They learn it very early on (With no one to talk to about it) and then, they grow up learning to suppress it. It’s this language they don’t speak out loud but internally are very fluent in. They just deal with it and if you’re a woman, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
For Jane, it’s almost as though she’s a surrogate. Surrogates carry children for other people. Each day for Jane is like an entire nine-month pregnancy. She’s carrying this psychological burden which is like an unwanted pregnancy she can’t terminate. The Assistant is not an enjoyable film nor should it be. Audiences won’t enjoy it but if they’re smart, they will be fascinated by it. I can’t keep away from the film now as I’m constantly going back to it. It took forever for it to come to my local theater and I plan on rewatching it and studying it as much as I can before it leaves cinemas.
The Assistant is a quiet film that speaks very loudly. The film is a reality that bangs on the door screaming for help. Seeing The Assistant is unlocking the door. Understanding it and appreciating it is opening the door. It’s not enough to unlock the door anymore. We have to actually open the door and The Assistant slams it open. Now let’s try and keep it open.