DVD Review: The Assistant (2019)

STUDIO: Universal | DIRECTOR: Kitty Green | CAST: Julia Garner, Matthew Macfadyen, Jon Orsini, Makenzie Leigh, Kristine Froseth
RELEASE DATE: April 28, 2020 | PRICE: DVD $14.99
SPECS: R | 87 min. | Drama | widescreen | stereo | English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie  | Audio  | Video  | Overall 

Low-keyed and tension-filled, The Assistant is an exercise in fly-on-the-wall dramatics geared to the “Me Too” movement through a fictional spin on the Harvey Weinstein affair.

Julia Garner (Grandma) plays an unnamed young woman with a lowly office assistant job at a New York City indie film production company. Every day, she starts out early in the morning, doing her monotonous work of copying documents, answering the phone, cleaning the office. She doesn’t talk much to the two chattering young wannabe film execs with desks across from her.

Her powerful, demanding boss, whom we never see but hear on occasion, is only a few feet away, and one of the assistant’s jobs is dealing with calls from his wife and taking care of the mogul’s schedule. Her suspicions arise when aspiring young actresses and attractive secretaries with no experience appear in the office and tend to disappear the same time her boss does. Is her boss bedding them so they can get their feet in the door? The assistant takes her concerns to the human resources director (Matthew Macfadyen, The Three Musketeers) who urges her not to make waves, warning that her job will be in jeopardy if gripes about her employer’s supposed behavior go any further.

Written and directed by Kitty Green (Casting JonBenet), The Assistant is a gripping experience because of its lack of conventional plotting and the fact its drama is kept simmering under the surface.  It shows that insidiousness can be found in the routines of everyday work. It is bold and largely experimental, and certainly not for everyone’s tastes.

At the center of this fable of ethics and workplace morality is a dynamic performance by Garner, probably best-known for her work as the feisty Ruth Langmore on the Netflix series Ozark, who holds the screen for its entire running time. Her believability factor is off-the-charts—so much so that the film often plays like a Frederick Wiseman documentary about a week in the life of a low-level film industry worker.

The Assistant received a terrific 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but failed to find an audience beyond an abbreviated and limited theatrical rollout. Reviews will help the title find an audience despite its subdued take on a controversial and potentially explosive subject.

Buy or Rent The Assistant (2019)

About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.