Review: The Little Hours (Sundance)

The Little Hours (Sundance)
7 10

PLOT: A servant (Dave Franco) in 14th Century Italy, who’s being hunted by his vengeful master (Nick Offerman) takes refuge with a kindly priest (John C. Reilly) who puts him to work at a convent he over-sees, populated by three young nuns (Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza, & Kate Micucci). In order to pass unnoticed, he poses as a deaf mute, but the ruse can’t keep passions from becoming inflamed.

REVIEW: THE LITTLE HOURS is director Jeff Baena’s third movie and he gets better with each film. LIFE AFTER BETH was a messy stab at a mainstream horror comedy, but his follow-up, JOSHY, was better. This one, which likely falls somewhere between his first and second films in terms of budget, should earn plenty of fans among those who enjoy the off-kilter.

That said, given that this is a spoof of “The Decameron”, specifically Pier Paolo Pasolini’s film, with a touch of Ken Russell’s THE DEVILS and Michael Powell’s BLACK NARCISSUS sprinkled in, it’s not the easiest sell to casual film-goers. It’s not tough to imagine some viewers will be confounded by it, while others will find it kinda charming. Despite liberal doses of apostasy, pan-sexuality, witchcraft, and torture, it’s a sweet-natured movie, and there’s something amusing about Baena (who also wrote the screenplay) opting to have everyone speak like millennials in medieval Italy.

While probably not the easiest movie to get financed, Baena’s nonetheless assembled a top-notch cast. Aubrey Plaza, who’s one of the producers, in particular has a showcase part as a cruel nun, and her trademark sarcasm married to a 14th century setting is oddly amusing. By contrast, Alison Brie is the sweet-natured one of the gang, a nun hoping her merchant father (a funny cameo by Paul Reiser) will marry-her-off to a suitor - any suitor - to get her out of her cloistered life. Once Franco enters the scene, she gets a little hot under the old habit. Kate Micucci completes the trio as the oddball who was clearly born several centuries too early.

Dave Franco is similarly good as the horny manservant who, against his better judgment, is easily seduced, while Reilly is funny as the constantly drunk priest, who’s got his own thing going on with the kindly mother superior (Molly Shannon).

Running a shade under ninety minutes, THE LITTLE HOURS never overstays its welcome, and Baena keeps things moving along at a quick clip. Most of the gags work, although I’d wager the majority are more chuckle worthy than the type to elicit real belly laughs. Technically, it’s his most polished film to date, with gorgeous cinematography by Quyen Tran and a terrific score by Dan Romer, a no-joke composer with credits that include BEASTS OF NO NATION and BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD.

One thing that’s a shame about THE LITTLE HOURS is that it seems fated for a VOD run, when, twenty-or-thirty years ago, it would have been a fun midnight movie for the college crowd. Hopefully it’ll get itself a healthy festival run so at least some people can see it that way, but even still, it’s a fun watch and worth catching in any format.

Source: JoBlo.com



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