The clear influence here is Chantal Akerman and Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles.
But you also feel the minimalism of Ozu and the restraint of Robert Bresson. #MeToo concerns are exemplified through the eyes of a film production office shitkicker in New York, whose responsibilities include being first to arrive and last to leave; washing everyone’s dishes; distributing schedules; fielding telephone calls from The Boss’s distraught wife; fetching lunch for her co-workers; picking up dropped jewelry in The Boss’s office and cleaning his casting couch. She arranges flights to LA and meetings with women in hotels.
She watches young women signing contracts and waiting for behind-closed-door meetings with The Boss. She takes one to an expensive hotel and then arranges assignations between her and the Boss in the hotel room.
She must deal with this clearly unqualified aspirant as she sets up on an adjoining desk - another “assistant”, but given nothing to do.
The power wrought over the office by the unseen producer and his sexual exploitation is thick and heavy, poisonous and morbific.
Written and directed by Melbournian and VCA film school graduate Kitty Green, now resident in the USA, the film uses sparse dialogue and apparently everyday events to slowly unravel a virtually invisible and entrenched reality. And her co-workers know the score. They know how to phrase apologetic emails to The Boss when things go awry; and everyone is in fear of losing their jobs, knowingly ignoring what’s in front of their eyes.
Julia Garner, so riveting as Ruth Langmore through all three seasons of Ozark, gives a compelling performance as the assistant. Her face, as each new exploitative detail emerges, reflects our simultaneous comprehension as viewers - the mundanity of the workplace is methodically revealed: masculine, toxic and hidden to any passing casual observer.
In a covid world, devoid of new releases, The Assistant shines and heralds in a new locally trained talent making her way in the USA.