All of us find, or have found, ourselves working jobs in which we are below others, being “assistants”, so to speak. Sometimes the person who employs us is gracious, making the job fun and easy to work at, but other times, the job becomes a living hell. It is because of this scenario that has become all too familiar to those of us who do not have tons of money at our disposal, does this 2009 comedy, The Assistants, really hit home and provide us with a touch of inspiration that maybe we can make it big after all. Eager to see Chris Conner in a role other than the serious, Shakespearean actor John Wilkes Booth, whose scenes were restored in the newly released Extended Director’s Cut of Gods and Generals, I picked this film up off of Netflix and just finished watching it. I must admit, I thoroughly enjoyed it; not just Conner’s acting, but the entire cast as a whole.
It can be assumed that the plot of this film hit home with most of the actors as well, because this movie basically details the trials and tribulations of producers in Hollywood and what it actually takes to get a finished product to the big screen. Conner stars as the assistant to a big-time producer, played by Joe Mantegna, who sees his career stagnant with complacency, as his dream of becoming a real producer himself is slowly starting to slip away. His best friends, who are all in the movie business in some capacity, are in the same boat. Aaron Himelstein is a promising young writer, stuck being an assistant to a now washed-up, former superstar played by Jane Seymour. Michael Grant Terry is an assistant to another producer as well, Reiko Aylesworth, who is a bit more conniving that Mantegna. Kathleen Early desperately wants to make it as a director, but has the job of being the personal assistant to an up-and-coming teen idol, whose looks are eerily similar to that of Zach Efron (whether or not this was intentional, I do not know), performed by Jonathan Bennett. Lastly, Peter Douglas is an electrician who is also disgruntled at where his life currently is.
Through some clever trickery, all of these characters will find a way to make it in Hollywood, by creating a fake film project to give to Mantegna, all of which is orchestrated by Conner, who at first, does not even know what his friends did without his knowledge. In order to actually get this project (or “cover”, as they call in Hollywood; a term used to describe the synopsis of a script not yet read by the producer) some recognition, the group decides to use the name of a once-great screenwriter, Harlan Keyes (the always great Stacy Keach), as the author. Because the producer is an immense fan of his, he is immediately sold. But not everything comes easy, of course, and to elaborate would spoil the plot for those who have not yet seen it. Just trust me when I say that there is so much going on in every scene, with a lot of details that you need to pay attention to, and the film switches from comedy to drama several times. The intensity in seeing the completion of this project is highly entertaining, and something we can all relate too. We all have visions, I believe, of becoming famous in some way, whether it be through writing, acting, singing, etc., and we all know what the chances are of success—all those dreams seem nothing but far-fetched fantasies. Yet, we still hold out hope that we will be recognized some day. That is what this cast does (mostly young and up-and-coming actors in their own right); it gives themselves chances to believe, both for their characters in the film, and who they are in real life.
It is unfortunate that their names are not more recognizable, though Terry now has a regular role on the hit FOX series Bones. Chris Conner, meanwhile, should definitely be in more movies, because I have now been witness to his versatility firsthand. He went from performing soliloquies of four hundred year old regicides, to play a more lively, and humorous role as fictional producer’s assistant Jack Ryder. In this day and age of acting, being able to not fall into typecast is easier said than done.
The Assistants is a little known, independent film, once again falling to comparison with the project the characters seek to make. I will give this film a rating of 8 out of 10, because of how impressed I was (even with my normal loathing of comedies), and I can only hope that Conner, and even Himelstein, who I also thought was outstanding, will get more recognition, and with that, more roles. This is a film I highly recommend, especially if you are like me, in that you find the intricacies of film-making interesting. With its depiction of the personalities of the rich and famous, as well as the continual backstabbing, soul-selling, and “BS”-ing that goes on behind the scenes, I now sit here and wonder if this film actually is not more fact than fiction.
P.S: Maybe I should have written more about this earlier, but I did not want to cloud the actual review. I have long dreamed of being able to direct a movie, the genre being anything from historical to paranormal, or even a psychological thriller. Anyway, I realized yesterday as I was talking to a co-worker who is a former film student, with no work in his profession, that with all the contacts I have established with actors in these past few months, through my interviews, if I had the money to make a movie, I probably could do it. But once again, there it is: money. Even independent films are in the millions today, and why I loved this movie so much is because it gives me hope that maybe one day, something will happen, and I will become involved with a film project. But until that day comes, I will just keep doing what I’m doing, figuring, if it is meant to happen, then it will happen; and vice-versa.