By: Amanda Guarragi
The Assistant written and directed by Kitty Green is a slow burn film that shows a day in the life of a young girl working an entry level job. There is this constant anxiety and doubt from Jane (Julia Garner), while she attempts to work hard and prove herself in the workplace. It shows the mental/emotional abuse that young professionals endure when starting out in the industry and how troubling it could be to make certain decisions that could affect your position in the company.
Kitty Green wrote a simple script that showed a realistic work day from the perspective of an assistant. The pacing was very well done and it also showed how tedious and time consuming certain tasks were. It showed how organized everything had to be and how to conduct yourself in the workplace. When does your voice actually matter? This film brought me back to my office days and made me nervous all over again. It was like it struck a chord inside me and somehow made all of those emotional memories come to the forefront. As I was watching this, all of my worst number one hits, were flipping through my mind and bringing the same doubtful sensation that I remember feeling in those moments. I remember being nervous doing any work that was given to me, any phone calls I had to make or even emails I had to send, those moments made me doubt myself because I was afraid I would make a mistake.
Everyone wants to prove themselves in any industry and sometimes our perceptions are skewed, when it comes to stepping up that corporate ladder. The verbal abuse Jane receives from her boss on two separate occasions, was not normal workplace behaviour. She then received a rather unexpected email from her boss saying, “I’m hard on you because I’m going to make you great.” which changes Jane’s outlook entirely. At the end of the day, people need reassurance even if things seem bleak and they feel like everything is going wrong. It is also important to note that Jane takes this particular comment as a positive, when it’s actually really damaging to her self esteem and she doesn’t realize it.
The climax of this film was probably one of my favourite conversations on screen and Garner showed so much emotion when Jane decided to speak to her HR representative. This exchange was the most important moment in the film because it showed two different perspectives on how to navigate the industry in one conversation. As someone who is trying to break in and become a producer, doing the right thing and making a claim that could make or break your current status is not something that would be advised. However, Jane was simply trying to do the right thing by protecting her fellow woman, but in this case her job was on the line, if she attempted to file the complaint. That scene balanced morals and ambition in a candid way that does put both sides into perspective. Whether it is right or wrong, it is up to the viewer to decide.
The Assistant is very subtle in what it was trying to say but also made many valid points by showing them through the perspective of an assistant. The assistant hears everything and knows so much about everyone in the office, but they are never to speak of it at all. The ending of this film is well done because it showed Jane finally taking a moment for herself and remembering what was truly important. Hopefully when people watch this film, they can understand how difficult it is for anyone starting out and show them a bit of grace.