The Assistant (2020) Analysis – Not Loud Yet Distinctly Vocal


Entry level jobs are tough, tougher when you are a woman, hired as an assistant. They are often asked, what can you provide other than work. As per the standards of corporate bosses, what is the use of an Assistant, if she isn’t pretty, like beauty is the only standard to get work and learn. Thus, the assistants who really want to contribute with their work and learn the art of the field, are overlooked, maybe because the bosses feel, “They aren’t their type.

The Assistant directed by brilliant filmmaker Kitty Green, who wrote the film as well,  reflects the plight of a woman assistant in a movie production house. The interesting clutch here is that you never get to see the boss in full. He is just a passing blur most of the time. Other than that: only his voice is heard throughout, but the words are always garbled. You never see his face. And yet his presence can be felt in every particular scene. Symbolically, it’s a metaphor that the exploitation by men hovers over the industry, but you can’t name it, face it or give it a figure, because it depicts all men, at some level. That is why, He is never referred to by name, even though every conversation is about him.

The Story

Julia Garner plays Jane, an assistant at a movie production company in lower Manhattan. She is hired as an assistant to a movie producer (most of us aware of, who). Jane accomplishes all sorts of things in the office, consisting of picking utensils, sweeping to managing the boss’ wife with lies. The intense detailing of her work binds you with her dilemma of the job, while slowly she gets acclimated to the semi-terrifying office culture. She is just 5 weeks old and really wants this job, first she wants experience, seconds she really wants to learn and third, obviously the job pays. But what she has to pay to keep up with her job involves a lot of humiliation and insecurity because she is an assistant and can be easily replaced.

The real story peeps in when she discovers something bizarre about the boss, while the office environment ignores it, denies it or maybe just wants to protect it. Jane visits the human resource manager to complain about it, that his boss has hired a new young, pretty and an inexperienced girl as an assistant, even when she is still working on the job. The HR manager weighs her argument, calling her insecure and jealous and requests to let it go. While she leaves, the HR remarks,

“You don’t have to Worry. You are not his type.”

A simple statement instantly knits the loose ends and you get what the film is about. It is the most well-written scene, and beautifully performed scene in the whole film.

Plight of Working Woman

The Assistant revolves around Jane who works in a movie production house. While she is not the victim here( at least physically), through her we can imagine the credibility of various stories that popped up in the popular #metoo wave. Without mentioning any names, the film brilliantly explores the exploitation of women in the field, where most of them give jobs on their appearances, rather than talents. So corporate men have actually made a new memorandum that women on the job are just a candy floss and those who don’t meet the standard, are either written off or ignored.

To demonstrate this irony, Kitty Screen tried to replicate the working environment of Miramax, the owner of which was found accused in the metoo cases. After the Weinstein scandal came to light, Green spent almost a year interviewing people from Miramax about the work culture there. They know it all and through Jane, Green has marvellously accomplished to deliver the same on-screen.

Art Transformed into a Commodity

There is never a singular layer on which a film works on, and a really good film majorly covers a variety of them. The Assistant surely belongs to such a league. While the film depicts a film office, you never get to see a film poster and occasionally white paper scripts. This is not a drawback of the film but the irony of the people who are making films these days, turning it into a commodity, plain and simple.

The slatish colour tone precisely delivers the exact shade of a corporate office, the atmosphere is churning with the sound of keyboard hits, that provides a robotic discern. Some really marvellous detailing indeed. Dishearteningly the office lacks any vibrance, like the state of our films these days. So, the place, where the pre-production of a film starts these days, isn’t cinematic at all. The dryness of the atmosphere narrates the depressing condition of arts and artists in the modern corporate world.

The Assistant, true to its title, also underlines the situation of assistants or entry-level employers who are either treated as slaves or sometimes, worse than that. They are humiliated for the mistakes done, and not done, and asked to write apology letters, which all sound the same, for the single most reasons, to embarrass them further. Thus, pushing their mental sanity and confidence off limits.

While so many films that tend to over-explain themselves, The Assistant without much words and more visuals, explain the theme effectively. It gives away whispers, murmurs and snickers of a conversation and much of it is left for the audience to weave further. It contemplates the kind of intelligent and gripping films, much needed at the moment without making a commentary or giving judgement on the misconducts by men who abuse their power. It is not shouting about it but still manages to be powerfully vocal.

The Assistant, by all means, is an important and necessary film which should be watched by every cinephile who admires sensible cinema. 

The Assistant is a drama film written, directed, produced, and edited by Kitty Green. It was released in the year 2020. The film is available on Amazon Prime Video for US Audience.

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Shikhar Agrawal
Shikhar Agrawal
I am an Onstage Dramatist and a Screenwriter. I have been working in the Indian Film Industry for the past 12 years, writing dialogues for various films and television shows.

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