I was lucky enough to be among the very first people, particularly among journalists, to see The Assistant, even before its world premiere at the 2019 Telluride Film Festival which was before it had been sold to a distributor. I did the first interview with its writer and director Kitty Green, previously best known for her work in the nonfiction field. Now it seems full circle that we have come to Deadline’s Contenders Film, moderating the Bleecker Street panel with Green and the film’s star, two-time Emmy winner Julia Garner.
The film has been said to be a roman à clef about a Harvey Weinstein-type boss of a Tribeca-based movie production company and centers on an assistant named Jane (Garner) forced to keep quiet about his sexual activities going on in plain sight in the office where she works. Green actually was not intending to do this particular story at all and was instead researching sexual harassment and misconduct on college campuses when the Weinstein scandal busted open. She says that focused her script more in this direction, and actually interviewed many people in the industry including those who had worked with Weinstein, and in other industries where this kind of behavior was rampant.
Although it is easy to say this movie is about one thing, Green says it really is meant to put a larger lens in general on sexual harassment in the workplace. “It makes a lot of people uncomfortable, but I think a little discomfort moving forward is a great thing,” she says.
For Garner, she says the role was equally as challenging as playing Ruth on Ozark, but in a much different way, one where her goal was to make the audience feel the isolation of this woman named Jane (as in Doe). “This was almost like being in a silent film in a way. I really wanted to make sure it is translating through my face, but I don’t want to overdo it, “she says.
As for the progress of the #MeToo movement the Weinstein scandal and other examples inspired, Green and Garner both emphasize that the pandemic may have interrupted it all but believe things are still changing in meaningful ways and hope that the movement can keep building.
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