'The Assistant' Exposes the Horror of Workplace Misogyny Directed by Kitty Green

Starring Julia Garner, Matthew Macfadyen, Makenzie Leigh
'The Assistant' Exposes the Horror of Workplace Misogyny Directed by Kitty Green
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 Aren't horror movies scariest when you never see the monster?

Jane (Julia Garner), the assistant, works in the film and TV industry; at work, she's the first to arrive and last to leave. She arranges flights, prints itineraries, takes phone calls and tidies up at a company that revolves around an unnamed predatory executive. Though we never meet this figure, the entire film is steeped in his presence. He's always behind closed doors, waiting on the other end of the phone, floating around the office, just out of sight — but leaving a trail of crumbs wherever he goes. Used syringes, women's earrings, blank cheques, mysterious stains on the couch; these are all the fragments of a larger, more sinister puzzle. And Jane is starting to put the pieces together.
 
In the wake of the #MeToo movement, director Kitty Green interviewed dozens of people in the entertainment industry as research for her dark thriller. She spoke to women who worked alongside Harvey Weinstein, employees of Miramax and other unnamed studios and agencies, to shine a light on the dark underbelly of an industry that thrives on gendered oppression and violence. Through her research, Green created a composite character in Jane from the unsettling patterns of misogyny and sexual harassment in the stories she was told.
 
The many frustrations Jane experiences culminate in the film's most horrific scene, when she takes her concerns to the company's HR department. With her emotions moments away from erupting, her slimy HR representative suggests she remove her coat, only to later tell her not to worry because she's not "his type." This is the film's most overt tactic to make Jane smaller, but only one moment in a long list of micro-aggressions that work to erase her personhood completely.
 
One thing is made clear from the beginning: Jane is alone. Far away from her parents and with no allies at work, her helplessness is frightening. The film's dreary office setting is the perfect backdrop to contrast the terrors that take place within its walls. Garner's one-woman show paired with Green's thorough direction makes for the loudest quiet film of the year so far.
 
(Bleeker Street)