The Assistant

At the Movies Blog
This assistant dreads some of the calls.

This assistant dreads some of the calls.

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Grandma (Lily Tomlin) was one of my favorite movies of 2015, and Julia Garner was great as the grandkid looking to get a loan from her grandma. She ended up getting a whole lot more. It’s a shame that with Garner getting a nice starring role, it’s in a movie that’s so minimalist and slow, you’ll be as bored as some assistants are when they’re sitting at their desk waiting for phone calls.

The Hollywood Reporter recently did an interesting story on how low the pay is for many celebrity assistants, so perhaps having read that article a few days before viewing this, wasn’t a good idea. Also, the fact that we’re hearing such salacious details about the Harvey Weinstein trial, you wonder why this thinly veiled Weinstein story…has nothing going on! The 85 minute run time, felt like 850 minutes. It only had three scenes that were remotely interesting. One of them involved two male employees trying to coach her on how to deal with a phone call. Another showed high-powered film executives walking in, and we don’t see their faces. We merely hear snippets of their conversation, as they grab papers or coffee, and walk back out…not missing a beat on what they’re saying. 

There’s also a bit of interest in watching how this assistant tries to go to HR and the smug look on his face and snide comments he makes, about her allegations and job prospects. The problem is…he’s kind of right about a few things. And she’s making allegations about suspicions she has about her boss. That type of thing was done a lot better in Doubt (Meryl Streep, Viola Davis, Amy Adams). 

Now, this didn’t have to be Swimming With Sharks, where Kevin Spacey plays such a mean film executive to his assistant. It did need…something more than it was. There’s a premise here that would have been fine to tackle, but you then need to write a screenplay to accompany that. At one point my wife said, “This is like Being John Malkovich, but without the humor.”

While watching a screener, I decided to randomly write various things down, and the times they were happening. The entire movie is just as “exciting” as the segments I listed below:

17 minutes 23 seconds in — Phone call from boss angry about something she said to his wife.

(that was the first remotely interesting thing in the film, so I took note)

22:50 — A food delivery to the office

23:38 — guy complained about his sandwich being turkey and not chicken, from said delivery

24:51 — assistant washes dishes in the break room

27:28 — assistant signs for packages arriving to office

28:30 — assistant paying company bills

30:02 — assistant has to babysit annoying kids in the office

31:50 — assistant makes copies of actresses’ headshots

37:00 — new assistant is hired and they talk in the car. The assistant thinks she was hired merely because she’s young and cute, and for a possible affair.

38:52 — assistant in elevator, with foreigners that are talking business in another language

41:08 — Wife calls assistant, wants to know where her husband is and who he is with

42:10 — Copy machine jams

48:11 — Conversation in HR department (see above comments)

58:10 — Assistant smokes a cigarette against a brick wall out in the snow

1:00:57 — Assistant makes coffee. We notice bandaid on her finger, from a paper cut she got earlier opening mail.

If the items listed above sound like interesting filmmaking to you, go see the movie. You might think that the way I listed them, could be done about any movie, and it wouldn’t sound interesting. But the scenes I listed, weren’t just quick things that happened. They’d go on for five minutes. So we’d be watching an assistant spend five minutes trying to fix a jam in the copy machine. Call me crazy, but I’d rather see the cast of Office Space take their baseball bats to a copy machine instead of this garbage.

0 stars from me.

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