The Assistant

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
The Assistant Movie Poster Image
Remarkable star performance makes #MeToo drama riveting.
  • R
  • 2020
  • 87 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Shows what happens when those in power, specifically men, go unchecked in their harassment and sexual assault/coercion of women. Exposes how women are exploited and silenced, how coming forward with evidence against someone more powerful comes at a cost, why people need to be held accountable for their behavior.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Few positive role models, except for Jane, who tries to do what's right but is completely dismissed. Only the men in the movie have much agency. Most of the women are actors hoping to get a job with the studio or a few female employees at higher levels who sort of stare at Jane but don't treat her much better than the men do.

Violence

Jane's boss yells at her on the phone, berates her colleague behind closed doors, yells at a third person on the phone, and sends angry emails. Several men leave an office angry. The boss's wife yells at Jane. An HR representative is cruel and dismissive.

Sex

A male HR director tells a young woman employee that she "has nothing to worry about" because she isn't her (predatory) boss's "type." Jane cleans up what is suggested to be stains related to sexual activity from her boss's couch (later, employees in the office joke/laugh about never sitting on the boss's couch). A beautiful young woman arrives in New York believing that she was promised a job by the boss.

Language

A few uses of "f--k," a couple of "s--t." Insults like "jealous," plus exclamations of "Jesus," "Jesus Christ," and more.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Jane puts several unmarked prescription drugs in a desk drawer and more liquid drugs in a storage cabinet. She later puts unsafely discarded used syringes in a biohazard bin. She's invited to drinks but declines. One scene of an adult smoking a cigarette.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Assistant is a searingly honest indie workplace drama inspired by #MeToo-movement stories of men in power who use and abuse (both verbally and sexually) younger women. The movie takes place over one long work day for the titular character, Jane (Julia Garner), who's a junior assistant to the unseen head of a New York City production studio. Her boss is the kind of man who berates his employees, yells at colleagues, and ignores his wife's calls, all while finding time to sexually coerce young women into trading sexual favors for the possibility of career advancement. Expect occasional swearing (both written in emails and spoken, including "f--k," "s--t," "Jesus!," etc.), and frequent strong innuendo and sexually suggestive content (references to the casting couch, which bears mysterious stains, as well as suggestions of infidelity and various attractive young women waiting to see or stay with the boss).

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byNowits2010 June 27, 2020

Worst movie I've ever seen

I wouldn't waste any time watching this movie... Nothing happens in it at all and it's the most boring movie ever.... If you wa t to put your child of... Continue reading
Parent of a 15-year-old Written byAloysius Gonzaga June 26, 2020

Hard to watch

There's lots of brilliant stuff in this movie; the performances are great, and the camera is always lining up interesting Vermeer-meets-Coleville tableaux... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old July 22, 2020

The Assistant

The first film of 2020 that I watched was The Assistant. The Assistant (2020) is something so incredibly jarring, revolutionary, powerful, yet quiet at the same... Continue reading

What's the story?

THE ASSISTANT takes place over the course of one long day. It follows Jane (Julia Garner), a recent college graduate who's working at her "dream" job as a junior assistant to a powerful movie industry mogul. An aspiring producer, Jane gets up before sunrise to catch her car from Queens to downtown Manhattan, where she's the first to arrive at the office so she can make coffee and copies, clean undetermined stains from her unseen boss's couch (picking up jewelry left behind), and more until her colleagues start to arrive. In between mundane office tasks, Jane is forced to suffer sexist commentary and commands -- like being the one who's forced to talk to the boss's upset wife, who knows he's having affairs; holding her boss's kids when the nanny (who's also presumed to be engaged in a sexual relationship with the honcho) turns up; and shepherding a gorgeous but unqualified young woman who's expecting a job. Jane, along with two slightly senior male assistants, also deals with the boss's verbal assaults on the phone and via email. At one point, Jane shows up at the HR director's (Matthew Macfadyen) office to complain, but nothing improves.

Is it any good?

Director Kitty Green's film, with an award-worthy performance by Garner, is a piercing look at how women in the entertainment industry witness and experience sexual coercion and harassment. Green and Garner are a powerful team. The camera's close-ups of Garner's expressive, evocative movements and gestures show exactly how conflicted and concerned Jane is about her job. She endures tiny indignities all day long because she believes the unwritten promise that, with the big boss's recommendation and favor, she'll eventually move forward from her entry-level job and launch into a behind-the-scenes film career. But the cost, as everyone at the production studio tacitly understands, is complicity in the boss's sexually predatory activities.

Green never shows viewers the boss, although he's heard ranting, and his presence is felt, quite ominously, in every scene. Your imagination fills in the blanks (if it's not exactly Harvey Weinstein, it's surely someone Weinstein-esque). Despite never being seen, the boss looms large in the way every character refers to him (from his wife's acid-tongued "where is he?" and "who is he with?" to an enabling veteran employee's "you're not his type" and another's resigned "is he in?"). The tense conversation between Jane and the HR rep, so perfectly played by Macfadyen, is brilliantly directed. At first it seems like there may be a miniscule chance he understands, but eventually the truth is revealed, and he turns on her, too -- dismissing and humiliating Jane with back-handed compliments about the future she'll give up if she speaks out against the proverbial "him." The Assistant is ultimately an intelligent, insightful look at the far-reaching way in which influential men subjugate and disempower women.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about The Assistant's messages. What does the movie make you think about the ugly underbelly of sexism, sexual harassment, coercion, and assault in the entertainment industry?

  • Who, if anyone, is a role model in The Assistant? What would you have done differently if you had been Jane? Why do you think she's so frightened to make a formal complaint?

  • Do you think the workplace has gotten better for women in recent years? Why do you think it takes so long for society to change its views?

  • Discuss how not seeing the big boss impacted you as a viewer. Why is it important not to see him but still feel his presence?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dramas

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