The Little Hours Written & Directed by Jeff Baena
Starring Aubrey Plaza, Kate Micucci, John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon, Fred Armisen, Alison Brie, Nick Offerman, Dave Franco, Paul Reiser, Jemima Kirke, Paul Weitz
Gunpowder & Sky
Release date: June 30, 2017
When looking for inspiration for modern comedy, I know what you’re thinking… the 14th century! For The Little Hours, writer/director Jeff Baena turns to an odd source, Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron. Written in the late 1300s after the Bubonic Plague ripped Europe apart, The Decameron was a collection of novellas about ten young people living in a secluded villa. The atmosphere and period setting made me instinctively think of Monty Python and the Holy Grail while the tone of the comedy — sex-based and vulgar — brought to mind There’s Something About Mary and Superbad. Somehow these two angles come together to form an oddly unique film that is intriguing throughout and laugh out loud funny at times.
Baena has a surefire recipe for creating a hilarious comedy: surround yourself with insanely funny people. Alongside John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon, Fred Armisen, and Nick Offerman are Baena’s girlfriend and constant collaborator Aubrey Plaza, Alison Brie, and Kate Micucci. The latter three play young nuns in a convent, but not because of their piety and faith. This is made abundantly clear by the way they speak to the men around them. While Brie’s Alessandra is the main character of these three and the one who struggles with her choices the most, Plaza’s Fernanda and Micucci’s Genevra steal most of the film’s most hilarious moments. Aubrey Plaza just has “it.” She has the innate ability to command the screen by doing little to nothing at all. She was the best part of my favorite TV series of 2017, Legion, earlier this year, and she is the best part of The Little Hours.
The struggle to maintain their religious purity becomes harder (no pun intended) when Massetto (David Franco) shows up. He was a squire to Offerman’s Lord Bruno and sleeping with his wife on the side. She was a little too friendly in public view, and soon Massetto is on the run and taken in by Father Tommasso (Reilly). He convinces Massetto it would be best to pretend to be a deaf mute as to not “arouse” the nuns’ curiosities. That of course does not work at all and soon Massetto is besieged by horny nuns, sometimes two at a time. Absolutely nothing is taken seriously here and it helps make even the sexual interactions really funny. Things get even sexier when Fernanda’s girlfriend Marta (Jemima Kirke) shows up. Kate Micucci has some real scene-stealing moments as well as she is torn between all these new physical desires and her natural desire to tattle on everything the other nuns are doing. Meanwhile, Brie and real-life husband Franco develop a romance that she won’t allow herself to consummate.
At the screening I attended I wrote in my notebook that everything felt ad-libbed, like this was an improv scene at a comedy club. So I wasn’t surprised to find out that the cast basically did ad-lib much of the dialogue and that there was a loose script outline around 20 pages long. Some of the confession with Father Tommasso and various members of the cast induced the loudest chuckles as did Fred Armisen’s Bishop and his reading of their many many sins, my favorite of which is “eating blood.”
If I had one issue with The Little Hours it was that it didn’t push the envelope enough. Now for many this will be a hard R-rated film, and there is plenty of foul language and salacious material here. But when you release a red-band trailer with the song “Bling Bling” by Junglepussy playing in the background, I guess I just expected more. After all it was just last year when we bared witness to all-out animated sexy orgy in Sausage Party. Minor squabbles aside, at a time in the year when each week there’s a new wannabe summer blockbuster, The Little Hours is something completely different: an oddball sex-comedy set in Medieval times that may actually have some interesting things to say about modern times and religious hypocrisy. I strongly recommend The Little Hours. It’s the type of film that will offend some, and mock them on their way out. That’s awesome.
The Little Hours opens in theaters in NY & LA on June 30, 2017, and will get a nationwide release on July 7, 2017.