The Assistant Review

Chilling Drama About A Woman Working A Toxic Masculine Environment

By Liselotte Vanophem

There are working weeks which pass by quickly and easily but others can be hard and feel like dragging on. The latter can result in too much coffee, many back to back meetings and working from pre-dawn to post-dust. That’s clearly the life the young assistant Jane is living at the moment.

The life of this junior assistant is now being brought to life in the debut full length feature film by writer/director Kitty Green (“Casting JonBenet”, “Ukraine Is Not a Brothel”). A movie that, despite its predict abilities, is a chilling and captivating one that makes you think.

Jane (Julia Garner) is a young, talented and dedicated woman. She’s working as a junior assistant for an entertainment company in Lower Manhattan for only five weeks and is clearly not afraid to give everything she’s got. Just as any assistant, she gets the ‘runner’ jobs: Getting the water bottles, handling travel arrangements, welcoming guests and handling the paperwork.

However, no matter how ‘unimportant’ those jobs can seem, she’s not afraid of working long hours, especially not when this can results in bringing scripts (and potential projects) to the head of the company. This seems like a working day of any assistant right? Well, that’s just what it looks in the first place.

When you take a closer look, you will notice that Jane is surrounded by male co-workers (played by Jon Orsini and Noah Robbins) and a male boss who all clearly create a very toxic and masculine working environment. One that makes Jane feel that something is off… Yep, something certainly is off!

A story line like this probably reminds you off #metoo and the Harvey Weinstein period and yes, that mostly what ‘The Assistant’ is about. However, this movie is so much more that just a ‘we want justice for all the women’ movie.

What makes this film so intriguing is the way this movie was filmed. For Green, this is her first feature and with a lot of experience in documentary making, she clearly wanted to the tell the story is a documentary-way. This is by really focusing on Jane.

We can see her daily tasks and her ordinary life from a very close up and this make her feel like she could be one of us. This also gave that ‘it can happen to every woman’ element to this movie.

That one-person point of view is being heightened more by focusing on Jane and hearing distant conversations and people passing by having talks. The on-edge vibe that hangs in the office is coming to life even more due to the fact that the company’s boss is never seen. We can only hear him, there’s no name and he’s being addressed by ‘he’. Clearly, the boss is just there to represent that toxic environment.

A one-person perspective really needs a superb lead to be pulled of stunningly. That’s exactly what ‘The Assistant’ got thanks to Garner (“Dirty John”, “The Americans”). She puts on a really emotional, capturing and human performance. We can certainly feel that doubt, emotions and injustice that her character is going through.

She gets smashing support from Matthew Macfadyen in the role as Wilcock. Wilcock might be predictable as a character (as well as the relationship between Wilcock and Jane) but Macfadyen is still terribly captivating.

While the story itself might be that ‘we have seen it all’ one, “The Assistant” is still a stunning debut feature of Green, which is thanks to the wonderful way it was filmed and to the stunning performances of Garner and Macfadyen.

Originally published at on May 3, 2020.



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