To say nothing (yet) of real life, assistants get a raw deal on screen. They’re not only earning a pittance for their exacting work but also losing personal relationships, missing parents’ birthdays, and, in the wildest of cases, making coffee with their hands tied over their heads.
While service to demanding overlords who promise some professional reward may have seemed glamorous in the early 2000s, #MeToo has shown the real, cruel truths. This week, as Kitty Green’s incisive new drama “The Assistant” rolls out around the country, Be Reel examines the role of assistants in cinema, also revisiting “The Devil Wears Prada” (2006) and “Secretary” (2002).
At the 14-minute mark, Daily Beast writer Cassie Da Costa joins Chance to discuss her essay on the structural abuses of power pointed out by “The Assistant,” as well as recount her own experiences with a troubling film industry internship.
In “The Assistant,” a recent college grad (Julia Garner) attempts to break into the movie business while cleaning up after a Harvey Weinstein analog—a cruel exec whose power is so diffuse and dangerous that he’s practically invisible to our POV character. Filmed in a quiet, brooding documentary style, “The Assistant” truly holds the system (instead of the players) accountable for the death of workplace safety.
Later in the show, it’s always sunny in fashion magazine publishing (RIP)! A recent college grad with an endless supply of bad sweaters (Anne Hathaway) goes to work for an Anna Wintour (Meryl Streep) analog. The coronation of late-stage, popcorn Meryl is a joy and all, but seen through the lens of this category, doesn’t “The Devil Wears Prada” present corporate hazing as a hilarious gag?
Finally, and most upsettingly, we look at the one-time indie darling “Secretary,” the BDSM movie that put Maggie Gyllenhaal on the map and probably made James Spader’s hair fall out en masse. Textbook office predation is spun into an edgy comedy that seeks to say something novel and romantic about the evolving role of women in the workplace and the lengths they go to rehabilitate bad men.
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