Film Review: THE LITTLE HOURS (USA 2017)

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the little hoursA young servant fleeing from his master takes refuge at a convent full of emotionally unstable nuns in the Middle Ages. Introduced as a deaf blind man, he must fight to hold his cover as the nuns try to resist temptation.

Director: Jeff Baena
Writer: Jeff Baena
Stars: Alison Brie, Dave Franco, Kate Micucci

Review by Gilbert Seah

THE LITTLE HOURS is a naughty sex comedy based on The Decameron
by Giovanni Boccaccio, written and directed by Jeff Baena who reportedly did some studies in Medieval History.

The story involves a young servant, Massetto (Dave Franco) fleeing from his master (Nick Offerman) after been discovered frolicking with his wife. He takes refuge at a convent full of nuns by pretending to be a deaf mute at the advice of Father Tommasso (John C. Reilly). The nuns led by Sister Marea (Molly Shannon) are no innocent creatures of God and prayer. The film concentrates on three of these ‘mean nuns’ Sister Alessandra (Alison Brie, Dave Franco’s real-life wife), Sister Fernanda (Aubrey Plaza) and the most naive of all, Sister Ginerva (Kate Micucci) who eventually turns out to be the worst of the lot.
The humour is lame at best. It seems as if the script is grabbing at last straws at being funny. Take the dialogue of a nun at confession out of a scene from nowhere: Father, I have sinned. Yesterday, I took out a whole turnip and ate it without sharing with the sisters…” to which she is told to stop being greedy.

It does not help the narrative that there is no strong lead character but multiple characters including three nuns, the Father and the supposedly deaf-mute. The film appears to aimlessly move along with any goal, message or purpose.

The film is clearly not a harmless sex comedy for it contains some nasty parts. One is a graphic description of torture methods that thankfully are not shown on screen. The sex scenes are too erotic (including a lesbian and threesome segment) for comfort with too much nudity for a commercial film. It is not surprising that the film was chosen and premiered at Sundance in the Midnight Madness Section, implying that all is possible and that audiences can be shocked.

For a film that puts in so much effort into location, look and period atmosphere all the characters speak in modern American accent. Dialogue like “Get the f*** out of here, don’t f***ing tap to me,” are common, even though the ‘f’ word was clearly never used in those times.

The film occasionally has the feel of a Monty Python film. The most identical scene is the one in the castle where two soldiers stand guard of Massetto’s cell.

Aubrey Plaza, most memorable as the bikini clad girl Robert De Niro drops his ice-cream on, plays a naughty Sister Fernanda who also serves as producer of the movie.

Director Baena attempts to pick up the film’s pace with a climatic rescue of Massetto from the castle prison by the three sisters. The decoy of a tortoise with a candle on its shell is a possible metaphor for the story’s pace.
For all THE LITTLE HOURS is worth, the film appears like an alternative remake of MEAN GIRLS set in a convent in the Decameron Tales era. But with less plot and unfortunately less humour.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dc_wqGyXCs8

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