July 22, 2020
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 time. The films somehow thrilling exercise of gaslighting becomes somewhat surreal. Almost like a David Lynch film with the twist of a bland setting really to burst. It is as if some small moment could make the story pop into the loudest scream in cinema history, but instead every big moment happens under the skin of a skeptical assistant, who carries the film's risky pacing behind her shoulder, along with the themes of secrecy and Julia Garner’s sad deli muffin. The film follows around a corrupt system that the main character, Jane, (Julia Garner), a recent college graduate and an aspiring film producer, lands a career-boosting job as the assistant of an incredibly powerful entertainment mogul. The day is nothing unusual, she stays late, comes early, orders takeouts, and of course arranges traveling trips and and taking messages over the telephone. But while time passes, she becomes aware of the constant sexual abuse in the workplace system. The film's biggest concern is the pacing. Not necessarily the story. The story of sexual assault or abuse of a system is not necessarily new anymore, after the metoo movement bursed across the nation. The risk of the film was the slow telling of a large story. On screen, it seems that there is no character arc. She learns of the awful truth and she decides to keep it to herself. She stays quiet. But that's it, the film is incredibly slow, stretched, and incredibly quiet, but the story it tells may not be. The pacing can become tiring, frustrating, and seem even boring. But, with the right ending, a realization of depth can be added with a final feeling from Garner. She is going to be lied to. She is going to be told she is incorrect, of course. But turning the system from inside out can be from a more missable action than you'd think. It is both a thrilling scream and a quiet realization. When I was scrolling through multiple “Best Films Of 2020 So Far” articles, The Assistant mains carry seemed to be a wonderful performance by Julia Garner. Or as many said, “A Breakthrough”. When I first watched the film, I didn't get it. I didn't understand what all the rage was about. Her performance seemed “Okay” at most. Once I rewatched it, so I could write a review, I finally understood it. To understand the performance, you must understand the film itself. The film is jarring, the film is complicated, and the film takes a lot of patience to watch. If you give her the time, if you decide that you will pay enough attention to her, then you will realize how what the film says is dragged by what she says. Her emotions are the basis for the film, her ideas are the only reason we watch. Garner stays quiet, Garner stays hidden, yet if you see through a silk sheet, Garner is ready to scream. She is ready to let it out. She is ready to reveal the truth. Of course, with the lack of support from other people, she has to keep it bottled up. She knows if she waits, the system will fold itself out. It is with her quiet help that will start a chain. Jane constantly looks like she is on the edge of a mental breakdown in each scene, when the truth is, she already has had one. Her character holds eac emotions in and her best scenes are the ones where we can see her starting to break. We can see inside her mind, as her mind is the support for the whole film. For a supporting cast, each actor and actress builds more tension around Garner. Each performance other than the lead knows exactly its singular purpose. It is a cycle, not exactly the same one that Garner must overcome though. The film's slow pacing seems to be the only thing related to writing mentioned in film analysis and reviews. There are two most noticeable writing moments in the film. 1. The way the film stays so authentic is the subject. The film's subject is the idea that the voices of men are much more powerful and listened to than the voices of women. We never actually see Jane’s boss, we only hear his voice. We only see what he writes. The only visible thing is what he does, since such an accomplished voice wouldn't be able to do such awful things. True? Watch the film. The male characters get more natural and overhaul more dialogue than Jane, even though we see her reactions for quite a while. 2. The film finds its way around the subject just as Jane does. If Jane is anxious, if Jane is confused, if Jane has made a realization, so have we. We know exactly as she does. If she is gaslighted, we question the issue. If she is confident that she can change something, we instantly support her with it. It is as if we are sucked into her experience. The two points support the film as well as they can, although they are not exactly very clear. On my second watch, something that appeared to me so quickly was the film Mood Vs. Editing. The mood of the film is slow, the mood of the film is quiet, the mood of the film is something that can't tell its secrets. The editing is something explosive, it tells us the true emotions of a character when a character can't. The editing consists of sudden cuts-sudden bursts-random endings to meaningless scenery. There is one scene, where the wife of Jane's boss is over, and she leaves her children with Jane. Her son, still an infant, plays with a musical toy quietly. Across from Jane, his wife's elementary school attending daughter pretends to be a horse, rolling her lips constantly. “Now you do it” She says to Jane. Of course, Jane rolls her lips. More. More. Mo-Then a cut. Nothing is finished, nothing is done but we have to accept it because we know that the editors know best. At least these editors do. One of the most surprising standouts from The Assistant is the production. There is something so unique, so confident, so crumbling about the typical office. In the office sits desks, granite countertops, and a refrigerator. Nothing is different than any other office. Nothing is out of the ordinary. But that's what makes it wonderful. The crazy truth that such a terrible thing could happen in such a simple place. It is as if reality creeps up Jane’s neck, even though the reality of a regular office seems so clear. It is almost absurd how plain the office is since there is not one touch of a uniqueness for such a unique and important story. But instead the importance will flesh itself out, leading the movie from start to finish. The Assistants audience reviews seem to be a mix of wonderful and terrible things. Some call it “Boring” and some say it was “Brilliant”. The bad reviews carried the film's issues with pacing and how the ending thinks it can make everything seem like it went by quickly. The good reviews carry the film's strengths, the screenplay and Garner’s wonderful lead performance. Critics loved it, Even Sheila O'Malley of rogerebert.com gave the film the websites legendary highest prize, a four star review. The storys complexity was obviously a challenge to quite understand, Its best moments were the clearest. As of this, The Assistant proves something: There is no point in re-watching a film you understood when you can be re-watching one that you didn't. The Assistant started as it ended. Quiet, slow, and overhaul everything that made the film what it was. In the end though, the impact of truth weighed down Jane's shoulders, as the audience somewhat understood the film. My favorite scene is the last, as it usually is in a film. The last scene, or at least the last scene with dialogue, is where Jane sits in a deli with a muffin. She calls her father, and apologies for missing his father. “How is it?” He asks. She answers that it's fine. She says she works late nights. There is nothing new about it. But a realization comes, to twist the system, she must become part of it. She has blended in. She has become a step in the cycle.