MOVIE REVIEW: ‘The Little Hours’ is a film full of hilarious potential with dull results

Without having the guts to truly "go there," Jeff Baena's nun comedy feels like a wasted 90 minutes

| July 13, 2017

Attached is the restricted red-band trailer, which contains very explicit language.

“The Little Hours” is something that caught my eye a while back from a single image of Aubrey Plaza as a nun yelling angrily into Dave Franco’s ear. This was enough in itself to sell me on the film, as I felt like it would match my style of humor in ways that other films don’t often. I love Plaza, even when she was in the abomination that was “Dirty Grandpa,” she saved the film from being a complete 0/5 on my end. So to not only have her in a film like this, but to be her first project that she produced herself, I was completely sold. Then the trailer dropped, and I was sold even further. “The Little Hours” seemed like the complete absurdist indie comedy I’ve been waiting for this year.

And boom went the dynamite: “The Little Hours” was hurt from its hype.

Set in 14th century Italy, Massetto (Dave Franco) is a young servant serving under the cruel Lord Bruno (Nick Offerman). After Bruno learns that Massetto has been sleeping with his sexually frustrated wife, he escapes due to fear of execution. When he comes across a struggling, drunk priest in the woods, Father Tommasso (John C. Reilly), he helps him recover his ruined goods in exchange for shelter, to which he obliges. Returning to theĀ convent in which Tommasso lives, Massetto is confused as to why Tommasso asks him to play the role of a deaf mute when taking the job as the new groundskeeper. Upon starting work, he realizes that the nuns that populate the convent, including Sister Alessandra (Alison Brie), Fernanda (Aubrey Plaza) and Ginerva (Kate Micucci) are all profane, crude and abusive women of the cloth, many of whom set out to seduce Massetto, among other outrageous acts.

“The Little Hours” isn’t a bad film by many means, as its quite unique and very inventive in its ways that it riffs off of Giovanni Boccaccio’s “The Decameron,” a 14th century literary work of many tales. This is all incredibly admirable, but unfortunately the film never is outrageous or over-the-top as it wants to be, ruined even further by having nearly every truly funny scene spoiled in the trailer. This doesn’t leave much in the way of any more humor peeking through the cracks of what we weren’t exposed to at the time. This is incredibly disappointing, especially in the fact that the film still wouldn’t have fulfilled its entire potential had there had been no trailer for the film at all. This is a film that half-asses much of what could be, and the briefest moments of hilarity are offset heartbreakingly by the film’s lack of real bite besides it.

The performances in the film, while not hilarious, are quite good, if a bit pedestrian. Plaza, as mentioned before, does what she does best: deadpan, straight-faced, dark humor that we’ve come to love from her. That being said, it’s pretty straightforward here, with no real development for her as an actress to break out of anything but the archetype we’ve become accustomed to. I’m hoping that she does something different in her next starring role in “Ingrid Goes West.” If there’s any real star of “The Little Hours,” it’s Micucci, whom I’ve been a major fan of for quite a long time due to her involvement in comedic musical trio Garfunkel & Oates. Here, she gets a character that not only is unlike what I’ve become used to from her, but she’s the only character who has any real emotional development that is palpable in the film. Micucci is sympathetic, sometimes pitiful and easily the funniest person in the film. “The Little Hours” might not be up to par, but Micucci is.

The rest of the cast merely fills out smaller roles that have a few punchlines before floating offscreen without any real development beyond that. They are simply celebrities filling tiny roles that would’ve been far less consequential had they not had the recognizable faces behind them. This is unfortunate in how incredibly talented much of the supporting cast of the film is, including Molly Shannon, Fred Armisen, Jemima Kirke, Paul Reiser and Nick Offerman.

The look of “The Little Hours” is what director Jeff Baena did right here. Evoking the style of 1960s Italian melodramas, the aesthetic and tone of the film really does feel quite vintage and satirical, making the jokes that are there funnier. For how low-budget the film is, it’s a beautifully framed film that uses its location-shooting in Italy wonderfully. Still, the occasionally cheap shots at ’60s filmmaking really make “The Little Hours” feel more genuine and smart than it might initially lead you to believe.

If there’s one massive issue with “The Little Hours,” it’s that much of the humor feels present for the sake of being present. It just feels like a one-trick pony of finding nuns cursing every other word and having sex and performing witchcraft sustainable for 90 minutes without a real plot. While I do love a good R-rated comedy, most of your humor should come from things that could pass under a PG-13 rating in your writing and performances, which is something like “Rough Night” did exceptionally well.

I left “The Little Hours” feeling sad and a bit jipped in how such a funny trailer can pack all of its jokes into 2 minutes and leave nearly nothing left for the remaining 88 minutes. While there are some good performances in the film, and there are laughs to be had, they simply aren’t effective enough to make “The Little Hours” really worth it. If “The Little Hours” does anything exceptionally well, it would be its creativity in its idea, the filmmaking style that was shot for and Micucci’s performance. Everything else feels like a moderately off archery shot that never completely veers off the target, but never comes close to actually hitting the bullseye either. It’s a contender, just not a very good one.

2/5

Photo courtesy of Gunpowder & Sky

Directed by: Jeff Baena
Starring: Alison Brie, Dave Franco, Kate Micucci, Aubrey Plaza, John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon, Fred Armisen, Jemima Kirke, Lauren Weedman, Nick Offerman, Paul Reiser, Adam Pally, Paul Weitz, John Gabrus.
Runtime: 90 minutes
Rating: R for graphic nudity, sexual content and language.
Now playing exclusively at Regal Ballantyne Village 5.

Gunpowder & Sky and Starstream Media and Bow and Arrow Entertainment present, a Destro Films production, in association with Dublab Media and Productivity Media, “The Little Hours”

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Category:Arts and Entertainment, Film

Hunter Heilman Hunter is the current editor-in-chief for The Niner Times. He is a senior Communications major who wishes he were a dog and wants to pet your dog if you have one. Hunter has been a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA) since August 2015. Hunter has been the editor-in-chief since May 2016. Please do not hesitate to shoot him an e-mail at editor@ninertimes.com for any questions or concerns and he'll be sure to get back to you ASAP.

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Hunter Heilman Hunter is the current editor-in-chief for The Niner Times. He is a senior Communications major who wishes he were a dog and wants to pet your dog if you have one. Hunter has been a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA) since August 2015. Hunter has been the editor-in-chief since May 2016. Please do not hesitate to shoot him an e-mail at editor@ninertimes.com for any questions or concerns and he'll be sure to get back to you ASAP.

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