The film follows Jane (no last name), a lower level assistant to a powerful entertainment figure who is never shown or identified other than "he", "him" and "his" throughout a stressful day in their Manhattan office building. As a low level assistant, Jane's job consisted of answering phones, taking messages, making coffee, fetching lunch, cleaning up the crumbs on people's desks after lunch, and other menial jobs associated with being on the bottom of the corporate ladder.
The writer and director of this film, Kitty Green, obviously based this entire plot upon the malfeasance that Harvey Weinstein oozed while sliming his way through the entertainment industry via his company Miramax.
Jane's day was jam packed full of degrading moments: all the elevator scenes (of which there were many) always had the important stiffs get on and off the elevator first, of which most were men. Courtesy of course suggests that women are allowed this, but not in Kitty Green's world. Nope, the pig beastly men just treat poor Jane like a baby treats a diaper. When a gorgeous model shows up for an audition, Jane is asked to show them into the audition, and the good looker jams her coat into Jane's arms, much like Meryl Streeps ' character Miranda does to her underling in"The Devil Wears Prada," and Jane is expected to wash the dishes and coffee cups of her superiors while they jibber jabber about all things movie-related as they pretend she is not there.
Essentially focusing on the endless little indignities that Jane suffers throughout this never ending day, the big shot executive has the gall to hire a cute little waitress from Boise Idaho, without a lick of movie industry experience or a high falutin' Ivy league college degree, to help Jane work the phones. During the course of her initial hiring, this former waitress from Boise is put up in a luxury hotel, and later on Jane learns that her pig of a boss also books himself into this hotel later on that evening. The office chatter confirms that this happens all the time, no big deal.
Jane's tolerance for these never ending insults is just too much for her, and she approaches the human resources guy with her concerns about the situation. To her frustration, the HR guy sums up her complaint as 'bullshit,' crumbles up the notes he took and tells her on her way out, "don't worry, you're not his type." And then he promptly calls her boss and tells him about their conversation.
Her day ends up in silent despair, as she walks back to her apartment in the closing scene. What? The boss doesn't get his come-uppence? No satisfaction for the way Jane is treated throughout the day? The movie ends leaving the viewer thinking "what, that's it?"
Kitty Green suggests without putting it out there that such is the life of virtually all young women in the workplace: they are abused, mistreated and maligned by male jerk bosses, and nothing is ever done about it. And Kitty Green would be right: although only in a sliver of our society: the entertainment industry, which she works as a writer/director. Everybody in the country knows that this industry is the filthiest, slimiest, dirtiest most corrupt businesses in the United States. The casting couch as been around for at least a hundred years or more. And the downfall of Harvey Weinstein has not caused all of those casting couches to disappear. Hardly. More of them spring up every day.
Kitty Green sees, like we all see, the human condition. People are not perfect, and some are downright evil. And pretty people, or talented people who have been doted on by everybody from their kindergarten teacher all the way through their high school football coaches or beauty pageant officials, think of themselves as above everyone else, and often treat everybody like crap. It is the human condition.
But more so in Hollywood than anywhere else. It has been said that the measure of a person's character can be seen by how they treat somebody who cannot possibly improve their position or help them, such as waiters, bellhops, cashiers and others in the service industry.
Kitty Green's "The Assistant" is not an expose on life in the corporate world. Far from it. Watching this movie just reaffirms that people are flawed, and that life is not fair. Or, in the words of President John F. Kennedy: "loif, loif's not fay-uh."
And to that I would say, 'duh.'