The Assistant” The Ten Best Films of 2020

Kitty Green’s remarkable “The Assistant” is about #MeToo and Harvey Weinstein without explicitly being about those things. Instead, this quiet, day-in-the-life drama breaks down the many ways employees are forced to tolerate bad behavior. In the film, Jane (Julia Garner) is a hardworking everywoman who treks into the office each morning from Queens when it’s still dark out. But today, something is off. She finds an earring in her boss’ office. A woman she’s never seen before stops by to pick it up. A young woman from Idaho flies in for a job likes hers and the company puts her up at a fancy hotel. When her boss disappears, all her coworkers seem to know where he’s gone. When Jane finally works up the courage to report him to a HR representative (a chilling Matthew Macfadyen), he waves off her concerns and warns that her report could end her career. As Jane tearfully gets up to leave, he tells her not to worry: “You’re not his type.”

“The Assistant” psychologically explores all the little ways someone trying to do the right thing meets resistance. Her boss yells at her and humiliates her to write him an apology for every so-called mistake, pummeling her will into self-preservation. Others in the office know what’s happening, but more or less lead by example to look the other way. Jane’s supposed to be relieved that she’s not on the receiving end of sexual harassment, but what about the other women? Or the next executive she works for? Green’s movie, which she also wrote and directed, works not just within the setting of a production company but to almost any toxic workplace that encourages its employees to ignore abuse and give them no tools to stop it. (Monica Castillo)

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