The Assistant Is Shining A Light On Hollywood’s #MeToo Problem

While Harvey Weinstein’s conviction was undoubtedly a win, is Hollywood actually changing? The Assistant's director, Kitty Green, speaks to Grazia.

The Assistant Film

by Helen Whitaker |
Updated on

Deemed 'the first post-Weinstein movie’, this week sees the release of The Assistant, a film that won rave reviews at Sundance for its portrayal of the issues at the heart of the #MeToo movement. It follows a day in the life of Jane ( Julia Garner), an assistant at a film production company, who carries out her mundane workload with the spectre of her abusive boss looming over her. ‘The boss’ remains unnamed and unseen, but his misconduct is loud and clear through screaming phone calls, in-office sniggering about his inappropriate behaviour, and the young women who appear to sign NDAs.

‘I didn’t want to make another film about a bad man,’ explains writer and director Kitty Green over the phone from her home in Australia. ‘We’ve given them enough screen time. I was interested in what kind of work environment supports a predator like that: the culture of silence. And what is preventing Julia’s character from getting into a position of power?’

The result is a compelling film that tackles not only the predatory sexual behaviour that saw Weinstein convicted to 23 years in prison for rape, but also the everyday microaggressions that female employees are subjected to. Jane is asked to ‘handle’ the boss’s wife, provide ad hoc childcare and clean up after meetings, while male assistants do the real work.

Kitty made her name directing documentaries such as Netflix’s Casting JonBenet and was researching the topic of consent on college campuses when the Weinstein story broke in 2017. Her phone ‘blew up’, she says. ‘I had a couple of friends who worked at Miramax [Weinstein’s film company] so I started asking questions of them. Then I spoke to other women in the film industry, at agencies and studios, as well as women in finance and tech. I was hearing the same stories again and again of gendered work environments, harassment and biases.’

I didn’t want to make another film about a bad man. We’ve given them enough screen time.

But the politics of making a film that shines a light on the seamier side of Hollywood could have come straight from her research. ‘We had a lot of trouble getting it financed,’ she says with a wry laugh. ‘Often, a female executive would love it and then, a day later, we’d get a no from them, saying, “I can’t get my male colleagues on-board”. At one point we thought it was impossible. It makes people 26 Julie Garner in The Assistant and (below) with writer-director Kitty Green uncomfortable, especially in the film industry, because it reflects behaviour that is still going on. It’s not “Weinstein is in jail so the problem’s solved”, it’s bigger than that.’

In one chilling scene, Jane voices her concerns about a young woman she had to take to a New York hotel for a ‘job interview’ with the boss. The male HR employee (Matthew MacFadyen on brilliant quietly-creepy form) remains blank-faced before questioning if this is really something she wants to pursue.

‘I spoke to so many women who had either witnessed or experienced something and had gone to their HR department only to be... a lot of them used the term “gaslit”,’ says Kitty.

So while Weinstein’s conviction was undoubtedly a win, is Hollywood actually changing? ‘People are finally taking women seriously as directors and film-makers,’ says Kitty. ‘There’s along way to go and we need to keep having these conversations and speaking up when things aren’t fair, but I do think it’s getting better. Slowly.’

‘The Assistant’ will be released digitally on 1 May.


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