The Assistant - Movie Review
Much has been spoken, tweeted and written about #MeToo in real life. There have been some convictions, some remorse and mostly inaction in real life cases. Here’s a film that showcases the life of an office assistant who is not just subject to harassment but even embarrassed when she tries to protect her female colleague.
The film begins with Jane (Julia Garner) starting her work day in the wee hours and heads to her office set in Lower Manhattan, New York city. She’s the first one to get in to the office and manages all the administrative tasks almost alone at the office. The company, a film production house has a number of employees walking up the alley, to the pantry, in the elevator and so on but no one hardly acknowledges her presence or her contribution to the workplace. The first scene show how Jane carefully assembles the coffee mugs, washing the plates, cups and so on, takes photo copies of work files, sends emails, fixes schedules for her bosses and even interacts with the Boss’s wife and her child’s Nanny! Just that her Boss – who’s face is never shown all through the movie is cheating on his wife and uses his position to exploit women – colleagues at work as well as those from outside.
Once while cleaning her Boss’s room (which is not her job, though but she wants it to be clean), finds an earring and suspects something could have happened between her and an aspiring actress who came to workplace the previous day. To add to her suspicion, the Boss’s wife calls and complains that her Credit Cards have been blocked and she’s unable to use. Jane tactfully convinces her that he issue could be with the bank but the wife doesn’t accept or believe. All through the movie, the Boss (Tony torn) is never shown as a character but for his phone calls. Jane’s two male colleagues, (Migs Govea & Jon Orsini) not only keep teasing her but also over hear the Boss’s personal calls while also demeaning most of her work.
That’s when Sienna (Kristine Froseth) walks in to the office as another assistant to the Boss. While inducting her in to the job, Jane wonders how a stewardess who worked in Idaho with no administrative experience is appointed for the job. Only when she drops off Sienna to a hotel for her to check-in, she realises that the Boss is actually going to be with the new hire at her hotel room. Frightened, Jane rushes to the next building to meet Wilcock (Matthew Macfadyen) to tell him what’s going on in the office and how she and the new hire, among other aspiring actresses who visit the office are being sexually subjected to by the Boss. After taking notes initially, Wilcock mocks at Jane for bringing the issue to HR, threatening her with dire consequences. He also admonishes for over reacting for something which is very normal in current times. Shocked, Jane returns to her desk.
The Boss calls on her landline phone and fires her for over stepping her role and asks whether she wishes to continue in her job, in which she has been for just 2 months. She admits she made a mistake and obliges to the Boss by sending an apology email. She gets further trolled by her two male colleagues and when she finally leaves for the day, sees the Boss and a girl in the room in a compromising position from the silhouette of the curtain. She bites in to her Muffin and moves on, even as she wishes her father belated birthday wishes. The film, a complete drama has more silence all through the 95+ mins than dialogues, setting a new benchmark in American drama movies.
While what we see seems so normal, the job of an Office Assistant, Secretary as we call in India, is indeed a toughie. From managing the egos of his / her seniors in the office, balancing the Boss’s Office Calendar with internal and external meetings and of course, knowing the company’s official and unofficial “behind the scenes” stuff and still be still as though nothing has happened at all – rather difficult than one can imagine.