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Fictional Film Explores One Woman's Experience As An Assistant To Powerful Movie Mogul

Sundance Film Festival

The Atlantic is one of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival’s media sponsors and in addition to hosting a few panel discussions, they’re here in Park City to follow and write about a variety of films that address timely topics and issues.

Megan Garber is a writer and film critic with the Atlantic and one focal point of her work this year has been to cover women’s experiences. One film she points to which is premiering at Sundance is “The Assistant.” It follows one day in the life of a female assistant catering to her boss, a high-level Hollywood producer.

“Which is the film that is loosely about the assistant’s experiences allegedly with Harvey Weinstein and it's really going out of its way to center the experience of the assistant rather than the mogul rather than the star and to make her experience of the world the center of the story.”

Julia Garner, from the Netflix series Ozark, stars in the film as an assistant to a film producer modeled after Harvey Weinstein. Garber says it’s a fictional rendering of the job usually held by young aspiring women who are trying to build careers in the industry. The film raises complicated issues about the role of the assistant as both complicit in the systematic abuse but is also a victim in the power brokers in the movie making culture.

“The nuance of the question where you know, she has to do this work because she has to have this job.  So it becomes a very interesting conversation of what she allows to happen and at one point, I won’t give away any plot deals but at one point she tries to stop something and is unable to and so you see her sort of victimized as well in a way. Your ambition is almost a punishment in that way. It's sort of weaponized against you where you know she is someone who is ambitious who wants to succeed in her own right as a Hollywood producer and that is very effectively used against her in the film because they keep telling her if you quit this job there will be a million other people who want it, you're so lucky to be here, fall in line.”

Garber says the story is about the structure of the movie making business and about the power imbalances that exist. She thinks the story telling in “The Assistant” will elevate the conversation and she hopes more men begin to play a more vocal role in putting a stop to the abuses of power in any industry.

“Fiction now, is becoming a platform for having those discussions because we've spent the past two and some years you know having these conversations largely through journalism in that nonfiction realm and I think now we're seeing a lot of creators think about how can we take on those ideas but through people who don't specifically exist. And I think there's a certain freedom in having those conversations through fictional characters.”

The complete interview with Megan Garber can be found on KPCW.org.


She and Leslie Thatcher delve into Garber’s January 22 Atlantic article titled “Harvey Weinstein’s Pain.” She opens the piece suggesting the language of pain, in Weinstein’s view applies as much to himself as to his accusers.

Two more screenings of "The Assistant" will be shown Tuesday at 11:30 PM at the Prospector Square theater and Saturday, February 1 at 6 PM at the Holiday Village Cinema 2 theaters.

KPCW reporter Carolyn Murray covers Summit and Wasatch County School Districts. She also reports on wildlife and environmental stories, along with breaking news. Carolyn has been in town since the mid ‘80s and raised two daughters in Park City.