THE ASSISTANT – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

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When I saw The Assistant, back in January, just before its tiny opening in the US, I suspected that it might prompt somewhat divisive reactions from audiences. I wanted to think that this quietly brutal film might be an eye-opener for those who don’t understand how cruelty, abuse, and discrimination get perpetuated in institutional settings, particularly as experienced by women and dished out by men. But I also had to concede that what this movie lays out in such shockingly simple terms, depicted with such savage mundanity, might not be accepted as realistic by those who would prefer to deny its harsh truths.

I was eager to see what sort of larger cultural conversation would develop around the film. Would a divide come across generations, as we’ve seen before, when (some) older women don’t understand why younger women are making such a big deal out of the ordinary, everyday crap that older women put up with and kept their mouths shut about? Would a divide come across genders, as we’ve seen before, with (some) men wondering why women don’t just suck it up and endure what men do as simply part of the game everyone has to play? Or would most people be ready to acknowledge that such intolerable toxicity has gone unchallenged for too long? Continue reading…

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Assistant is AWFJ’s Movie of the Week for January 31, 2020

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MaryAnn Johanson

MaryAnn Johanson is a freelance writer on film, TV, DVD, and pop culture from New York City and now based in London. She is the webmaster and sole critic at, which debuted in 1997 and is now one of the most popular, most respected, and longest-running movie-related sites on the Internet. Her film reviews also appear in a variety of alternative-weekly newspapers across the U.S. Johanson is one of only a few film critics who is a member of The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (the Webby organization), an invitation-only, 500-member body of leading Web experts, business figures, luminaries, visionaries and creative celebrities. She is also a member of the Online Film Critics Society. She has appeared as a cultural commentator on BBC Radio, LBC-London, and on local radio programs across North America, and she served as a judge at the first Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Film Festival at the 2003 I-Con, the largest SF convention on the East Coast. She is the author of The Totally Geeky Guide to The Princess Bride, and is an award-winning screenwriter. Read Johanson's recent articles below. For her archive, type "MaryAnn Johanson" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).