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I'm not paid to write about film - I do it because I love it. Favourite filmmakers include Bong Joon-ho, Danny Boyle, the Coen Brothers, Nicolas Winding Refn, Clio Barnard Steven Spielberg, Guillermo del Toro, Taika Waititi and Edgar Wright. All reviews and articles are original works owned by me. They represent one man's opinion, and I'm more than happy to engage in civilised debate if you disagree.
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Fresh Thoughts on Film
Archived Thoughts on Film
CRIP CAMP really got me. In a world that’s seemingly more unjust and unequal every day, in 2020 this heartfelt documentary reminds you of a time 40 years ago when civil rights took a giant leap forward. Camp Jened gave disabled young people a place to belong, to be accepted and to be independent over their summer holidays and this fundamental human need and human right would not be contained out of sight of wider American society for long. This is a story that needs to be told, in the voices of many of the campaigners for equality, they recount their struggles but also the good times and the lifelong friendships that came from their long summers. It’s a difficult watch at times – the suffering and indignity of disabled people is unflinchingly presented to us – but there’s so much joy, laughter and inspiration to be found throughout as well. Watch it, reflect and continue the good fight. SSP
At first THE HALF OF IT fools you into thinking it’s going to be just another quirky teen romcom. It is so much more layered than that – the story of an over-achiever (Leah Lewis) switching up her homework-for-cash business to helping out a jock (Daniel Diemer) with a love letter goes in some interesting directions. It’s refreshing to see a small town dramedy that doesn’t mock Christian beliefs – religion is very important to this community, every major character goes to church on a Sunday and while their views may be conservative, they don’t seem so small-minded that they would go in with pitchforks if what has gone on with their young people came out, that they would forgive eventually. Don’t expect a happy ending with a bow on it, but rather a hopeful hovering question mark. SSP
There are plenty of films about the artistic side of the filmmaking process, but very few about the business side of the industry and next-to-none about the daily office work involved in getting films made. Kitty Green’s THE ASSISTANT is one of those rare films, not to mention having an important discussion about abuse in the workplace, the dark side of the entertainment industry and gender inequality. It’s also one of the best films of 2020 so far.
Jane (Julia Garner) is an assistant to a powerful movie studio executive – the smallest of fish in the biggest of ponds. Her daily work routine involves making everyone else’s lives easier by taking on any and all undesirable jobs that come up, from clearing the carnage left from meetings to taking coffee and sandwich orders and arranging transport and hotels for her boss. She even wipes down the casting couch and fields calls from her boss’s wife, but when she becomes convinced of her employer’s predatory behavior towards the latest young woman who walks through the door she goes to HR for help.
Jane’s story stands for so many, those at the very bottom rung of the ladder in a massive industry who are assigned all the crappiest jobs even by those who are on paper her equals, simply because they’re privileged to be male and emotionally dead to the world. Jane isn’t just at a disadvantage because of her gender but because she is a decent, accommodating person. Her employers also know that because she is a hard worker and a good person with thoughts about her future she can be manipulated to toe the company line if she decides to make her boss’s latest infraction an issue.
This isn’t a Weinstein exposé but Jane’s unseen boss has something of the infamous movie mogul about him. We see Jane sponging down a couch in her boss’s office and opening the latest invoice for his dry-cleaning. She has to field calls from her boss’s wife because her male colleagues refuse to do it. She has to apologise verbally and then by email to her boss multiple times for interfering in his personal life when again her colleagues leave her no choice, and they also have the audacity to lean over her shoulder to tell her exactly how to do it.
The centerpiece of the film is an agonising conversation between Jane and an HR representative (Matthew Macfadyen) who not only ignores her legitimate concerns about a new arrival to the company but makes explicit threats to her career prospects and essentially admits that the problem she is reporting is a problem, but not one people should talk about. He starts off seemingly supportive but then begins to condescendingly pick apart her grievance and play to her ambition and self-esteem.
Just as Jane is the keystone of this office, Julia Garner is the keystone of The Assistant – she’s in every scene and the camera rarely leaves her face, her character’s living experience. Her expressions convey a litany of microemotions as her colleagues and superiors emotionally and psychologically assault her and she uses everything she has to not let it show and to somehow carry on.
Multiple times over the course of the film we see Jane leave the building and walk down the street on one errand or other and each and every time we are praying she keeps walking. She may not have been a victim of her boss’s sexual advances as many other women were but there are many kinds of equally despicable workplace abuse.The Assistant is a stunning piece of work that unflinchingly tells a story of everyday life and everyday abuse in an industry that isn’t changing fast enough. A must-watch. SSP