While “The Assistant” may seem like it wants to play upon the multiple #MeToo scandals, it sidesteps sensationalism in its approach.
|Screenplay By||Kitty Green|
|Date Released (Limited Release)||1/31/2020|
|Genre(s)||Drama, Young Adult|
|Duration||1 Hour, 25 Minutes|
This content contains pertinent spoilers.
Plot Summary/ Review (Ending Spoilers on 2nd Page)
“The Assistant” focuses on one single work day in Jane’s life. One that begins before the sun comes up, as she gets a ride from Astoria to a place that looks like it is within walking distance from the World Trade Center. From there, we see her do mundane tasks like answer the phones, make copies, clean, order food, and witness little things that push the idea that, after 5 weeks, something is wrong. However, with it being clear many are in the know, what can the new girl do?
It Doesn’t Sensationalize Things
While the #MeToo movement isn’t at the peak it once was, with one of the first men to get hit by it, Harvey Weinstein, finally going to trial, it isn’t the worst timing for this to come out. However, rather than focus on a certain look of man, instead all we get is a voice and a reputation. We don’t even see Jane’s boss, whose name I couldn’t tell you, since this movie barely, if ever, says anyone’s name.
With that, as Green notes in the Q&A below, she was able to tap into that realism. That concept of how things were before the #MeToo movement and how it was not only part of a company’s culture, but that those people were protected. All the while, many young women, and surely men beyond Terry Crews, suffered in silence.
Understanding The Term “Enabler” Doesn’t Always Fit
Leading to the real high point of the movie: There is a lot of gray for those who aren’t the victim or perpetrator. The importance of this is because, from Jane to people who are higher up, we’re shown how someone like Jane’s boss can exist. For example, Jane has worked at her job for 5 weeks and went to Northwestern and seems to be grossly underpaid. Do you think she can afford, especially if she someday wants to become a producer, filing a report against a major move maker? Especially consider Human Resources, to protect the company, navigates her away from being firm in filing a report?
How about this: multiple members of the more senior staff know what’s going on and joke about not sitting on a couch in Jane’s boss’ office. In many ways, you may think of them as an enabler since they know and don’t say nothing or even try to corroborate a story so that there is less of a need to fear retribution. Well, think of it this way, the culture of not just that company, but the industry enabled men like Jane’s boss. Making the idea of outing someone, even if you have some hits under your belt, career suicide.
So while there is absolutely no denying what happens to the sexual assault or rape victims is terrible, to call the people who were aware or around enablers is too much of a black and white look at a situation. One that not too many people are bold enough to call out in their lives and be willing to face the consequences – alone, in real life, without backing. Because it is easy to say you’d say something on social media or put out a post to expose someone. It is a whole other thing to go through human resources, deal with looks from co-workers, and put your career on the line either because something happened to you, you suspect something, or you know something.
For, at the end of the day, not everything can or should go through the court of public opinion.
While Focused On The Movie Industry, It Can Play Into Different Industries
Up until a certain point, you can imagine this film focusing on any corporate America industry. Be it financial, insurance, logistics, or any business that would make the type of money where it owned multiple floors and had young women walking about trying to get some form of employment.
And with that, it adds onto the idea of why the term “Enabler” isn’t one size fits all for in so many industries, especially those which still foster the idea you can have a career, you can be in Jane’s place. If not, like her co-workers, focus on just trying to move up in the business, not get involved, or just be glad you aren’t a potential target.
Which is troublesome, but let’s not pretend, on a lesser scale, things aren’t said and done in companies from mom and pop shops to major corporations that aren’t fostered. Be it excusing older workers who use what commonly would be considered sexist terms to discriminatory practices against people of color. What “The Assistant” reminds us, by focusing on a single day, is all the little things that we set aside and numb ourselves to for a check, advancement, or simply because we don’t have the will or means to attempt to change things.
On The Fence
The Lack Of Names
As briefly stated, this film doesn’t say characters’ names. In fact, if it wasn’t for the credits, I wouldn’t even have known what Jane’s name is. Now, this does allow a sense of anyone could be any of these characters. Yet, one could also submit that by not giving names to people, the film relies more on its viewer to fill in the gaps. Especially since, while no two characters look the same, they aren’t necessarily the most memorable either. Making the fact no one says each other’s name allow the film to be a bit more forgettable.
Would Watch Again? – One and Done
Those who want a #MeToo storyline, based on the entertainment industry, but with the victim and perpetrator being focused on only when necessary.
Rating: Positive (Worth Seeing)
While some may not appreciate “The Assistant” avoiding the drama and scandal which created the #MeToo movement, in doing so it allows you to see and understand what creates and allows such a hostile workplace. It is HR departments that have the mindset of not just protecting the company, but major moneymakers who they may feel are too closely tied to the company’s success. There is also those who are too new or too jaded to face a culture that existed before them and would continue whether they would say anything or not. But, what “The Assistant” ultimately does is remind you of how, when you look beyond the survivor and the one who assaulted them, things can be far more complicated than given credit for.
The Assistant Ending (Spoilers)
Simply put, after the HR manager tells Jane that filing a report could potentially end her career, she keeps her mouth shut. She, as she eats a muffin, sees her boss doing something with a girl in his office, some actress who likely won’t get cast in the 30 something projects that are going on, but she will get the casting couch experience. Which, to keep her career from skidding to a halt, Jane will ignore like so many others.
Is A Sequel Possible?
Considering this movie focused on one single day, it could very well have a sequel or be an anthology of sorts. They could make one focused on pay equality, racial discrimination, as well as the discrimination members of the LGBTQIA+ community face. Be it in entertainment or other industries.
Granted, the likelihood of it getting a theatrical release is slim, especially if not a well-known story, but it could happen.