Whilst the outcry following the revelations surrounding Harvey Weinstein started a new debate about the treatment of women in Hollywood, his crimes are only the tip of an iceberg. Powerful men have been abusing women and girls for as long as the film industry has existed. At the extreme end this is sexual and physical, but much more common is an hourly and daily accumulation of smaller mistreatments. This is the case in Kitty Green’s feature debut, The Assistant.
Jane (Julia Garner) is a junior assistant at a film production company in New York. Although she has only been working there for just over a month, it has become very apparent how the job is going to pan out. Whilst it’s the opportunity she’s longed for, her days are spent doing menial office tasks; at the bottom of the food chain in the office. However, she’s becoming increasingly concerned about her boss’s relationship with her female colleagues.
Whilst most of the noise around The Assistant is likely to focus on issues raised by the #MeToo movement, Green’s film works more for me as a studied methodical depiction of drudgery and exploitation. It’s thrilling in its exactness. Garner embodies the stoic resoluteness which comes with youthful determination, but this veneer gradually cracks. The Assistant is compelling and urgent cinema.
The Assistant is released on DVD by Vertigo Releasing on 20 July.