Unlike the overtly melodramatic Bombshell, director and writer Kitty Green’s The Assistant instead offers a more everyday slow-burn alternative to a drama inspired by the #MeToo era. Its greatest asset is a subtle yet deeply felt performance by Julia Garner of Ozark and Grandma fame as a witness to the evil that the Harvey Weinstein monsters of the world do to the women who are under their sway. In contrast to the depiction of the Fox News sex-abuse scandal, this scenario could happen in almost any workplace and is far more relatable.
As the waifish Jane, the titular Jill of all trades who dreams of becoming a film producer one day, Garner’s character is the first to arrive in the office of a Tribeca-based production company and the last to leave. She is relatively new but quite adept at her job. She makes copies, provides water, tidies up, order lunches, answers the phone, makes travel arrangements, greets visitors in the lobby and even stocks mysterious syringes and prescription meds in the office of the never seen but often loudly heard Mr. Big. Clearly, these are erection enhancers – ones that the assistant must dispose of after use.
The Northwestern grad senses there is something amiss in the goings-on while witnessing the man-in-charge’s dealings with the pretty young things who come by with stars in the eyes. There is a telltale earring left behind in what is clearly a well-worn casting couch – one that is a source of snickers for the male underlings. But when she accompanies a new hire – a lovely but naïve waitress from Boise – who is staying at luxury hotel on the company dime, she can no longer ignore her suspicions.
The payoff scene comes when Jane decides to blow the whistle and spill the beans to a condescending and dismissive human resource manager in the form of Succession’s Matthew McFayden. Rather than put the Hollywood mogul onscreen, we get a different kind of enabler – one who pushes a tissue box in her direction while telling her with a hint of a sneer, “You’re not his type.”
Green keeps matters real – there is no score heard until the end credits roll and the conclusion is kept up in the air. As for Jane’s fate, that is up in the air as well.