The success of The Assistant comes in the ordinary. The film portrays a regular day in Julia Garner’s Jane, as she gets to her job as an assistant for a movie, before everyone else, carrying out the mundane but apparently necessary tasks. The movie continue in this vein and you are waiting for the huge set-piece scene which the film is either building to or the whole story and its aftermath will be hinged upon.
The reason The Assistant is so effective is because there is no such scene. This highlights the issues with the way women are treated in certain work environments through portraying the everyday, the mundane and for Jane, and many like her, the ordinary.
This doesn’t sound at all interesting but the hook is in what Jane is willing to put up with to keep her job and how the behaviour she is experiencing has become normalised. From male co-workers dismissing her contributions, her being left to deal with “The Boss'” wife when she discovers he may not be being faithful, through to the moment Jane realises that the person she works for may be abusing his position and taking advantage of other young women trying to make it in the business; all of this is played as if it is ordinary but leaves you with a tense uneasy feeling throughout.
Although the movie is not hinged on any “one moment,” a specific scene stands-out as Jane tries to finally do something. Again, this is not a grand-standing scene where Jane (and by proxy the audience) finally get their cathartic moment but instead a very uncomfortable conversation with Matthew Macfadyen’s Wilcox, a Human Resource manager, who manages to not only dismiss the concerns but make Jane feel stupid for even considering raising them. Its a scene which both angers and amazes, as the realisation of the situation this woman finds herself in is made crystal clear.
The movie plays through as a spotlight on a situation many in this line of work are facing. Its a movie which works well in the time of MeToo but some may find that the lack of a “proper conclusion” or that moment of vindication makes the movie a less satisfactory watch. What it doesn’t do is make the movie any less impactful and you will find yourself with a lot to consider once the credits have rolled.
Overall, The Assistant is an effective portrayal of how women can be treated in the workplace. It is a film of the shocking amongst the ordinary which is what makes it so engaging throughout. It lacks a “proper conclusion,” which some will find infuriating though.
Rating – 4
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