by Philip Price
Director: Kitty Green
Starring: Julia Garner
Runtime: 1 hour & 27 minutes
Smart enough to not focus on the person in question, but the machinery set-up around that person and those on the other side of his always closed door, Kitty Green's “The Assistant” is deliberate to a fault. While a story of power and consent this is also a story of power and consent told by and from the point of view of a woman. There's no gratuitous and/or sensationalized scenes of what happens beyond closed doors, but instead we remain with a lowly clerk who makes copies, gets lunch, and tidies up after meetings. Nothing here feels exploitative for the sake of such despite the subject matter, but rather Green paints a delicate portrait of Julia Garner's Jane whom no one notices, but whose every internal conflict and struggle is all we see. Garner has an amazing presence that translates almost everything we need to know about what the character is feeling without hardly saying a word.
In the similarly themed “Promising Young Woman” the style is more heightened, but the situations aren't - they're very real and regrettably commonplace - and “The Assistant” operates in this same area where everything that occurs feels oddly ordinary, unpleasantly familiar, and certainly possible. Green sets her film within the world of the film industry (a detail I initially thought was the wrong - or maybe too much the obvious - choice), but what saves this for general moviegoers is that Jane doesn't necessarily have to be working for a powerful Hollywood producer as this could easily transfer to any other corporate environment. “The Assistant” is a film made up of small, specific moments that - while not driving toward anything grand or set in stone - analyzes a culture gone awry; lost to the conditions of those in power and where the idea of simple human decency quickly fades away.