Sundance 2017 has officially kicked off, with my first screening being the World Premiere of THE LITTLE HOURS. Written and directed by Jeff Baena (whose films JOSHY and LIFE AFTER BETH also premiered at Sundance), I can assure you this is a movie you haven’t seen before. Adapted from the series of novellas in medieval author Giovanni Boccaccio’s THE DECAMERON, Baena creates a raunchy comedy that uses hilarious, contemporary dialogue to offset its medieval setting.
Instead of affected British accents and “shalls and thous”, THE LITTLE HOURS’ humor lies in its American accents, curses, and bawdiness. Even when Jemima Kirke speaks in her natural British accent, the characters in the film are shocked and quick to comment. The style and tone of the film were so well-done, the first thing I thought when I got out of the theater was that I want Baena to adapt more classic literature into this modern medieval format. C’mon CANTERBURY TALES! I will start my dream casting list now.
Based on a title card, period costumes (I know that doesn’t sound right), and Aubrey Plaza pulling a donkey through a field while wearing a habit, it becomes increasingly clear that we have been transported to an Italian convent in the year 1347. Sisters Alessandra (Alison Brie), Fernanda (Aubrey Plaza), and Genevra (Kate Micucci) are frustrated with their day-to-day lives. But these aren’t your typical nuns. Think three foulmouthed, libidinous* Maria Von Trapps on belladonna (you’ll get that reference when you see the movie). But things start to heat up when Massetto (Dave Franco), a fugitive servant, arrives; not even the fact he is pretending to be a deaf-mute can keep the women at bay.
Such an interesting, creative script, calls for a talented acting ensemble, and thankfully Baena cast many of the best comedians working today. From Aubrey Plaza, Alison Brie, and Kate Micucci, to Molly Shannon, Nick Offerman, and John C. Reilly, there were no weak members. In fact, I liked how much of an ensemble piece this film really was; everyone had their moment to shine. Any movie is better with Molly Shannon, and it’s always good to see her back at Sundance. Interesting she played a nun in this film; looks like Mary Katherine Gallagher is moving up in the world. With such a large ensemble, probably the best part of watching the movie was it seemed the actors really had a fun time filming. That kind of positive energy almost always rubs off. I’m sure it didn’t hurt that they were actually filming on-location in Italy.
As fun as I thought this film was, I don’t think it will be for everyone, especially the easily offended. But for those with an adventurous sense of humor and curious in an interesting spin on a medieval-centered comedy, you won’t be disappointed by THE LITTLE HOURS. Although the movie is only 90 minutes, there were a few times I felt the film dragged, but overall this female-led comedy was a good start to this year’s Festival.
My Review: B-
*I may have put “horny” into the online thesaurus so I didn’t have to use it in my review.