The Little Hours | Jeff Baena | June 30th, 2017
Jeff Baena’s The Little Hours might be the most ridiculous film I’ve seen all year, and that’s a good thing. It’s a (very) loose comedic adaptation of The Decameron – a 14th-century Italian publication of short stories. It begins with a modest tracking shot of Sister Fernanda (Aubrey Plaza) walking up a hill with an escaped donkey. It has classical music, and a quiet, relaxing tone to start the film. This is shattered the minute Fernanda begins scolding the convent gardener with “Shut the fuck up! Don’t fucking talk to us!” The 21st-century language and casual attitudes in The Little Hours brilliantly blends with 14th-century religious romanticism.
Sister Alessandra (Alison Brie) and Sister Genevra (Kate Micucci) are two straight-laced nuns living in the convent. Alessandra dreams of a better life and Genevra is the convent snitch. Dave Franco plays Massetto, a servant who gets caught boning the wife of his master Lord Bruno (a hilariously blunt Nick Offerman) and is forced to go on the run. While sprinting across the beautiful Italian landscape, Massetto stumbles upon Father Tommasso (John C. Reilly) who takes pity on Massetto and offers him a job at the convent. He forms a plan to have Massetto pretend to be a deaf-mute so that the nuns will leave him be.
Once at the convent, however, Massetto’s presence immediately catches the eye of Alessandra and pretty soon the whole convent seems to have the hots for him. What follows can only be described as a sex-fueled fever dream of insanity – the best kind, though. It’s pretty funny to watch real life married couple Alison Brie and Dave Franco act nervous and weird around each other. There’s a scene where the nuns get into the “Jesus wine,” and act like college girls experimenting in their dorm room. Watching Kate Micucci’s goody-two-shoes character squirm during this scene was a major highlight.
Molly Shannon plays the head nun of the convent and gets to have some uncomfortable moments with John C. Reilly. The Little Hours is very fast paced, and with a large cast of characters, everyone gets a moment to shine. Dave Franco playing a deaf-mute may not be the most sensitive portrayal, but it’s undeniably funny – especially when his character needs to speak the most. There’s a subtle theme of sexual awakening and sexual identity that briefly pokes through during certain scenes. These particular scenes, along with a naked fire dance scene, may seem somewhat out of place, but there is a ton of hilarity spread out to pick through.
Aubrey Plaza basically plays dry, sarcastic April Ludgate as a nun, but it’s still entertaining to watch. Her friendship with a nearby witch provides the most bat-shit crazy scene in a comedy I’ve seen in a while. The script is witty and gets the most out of the time period parody with the modern dialogue played hilariously straight during some of the religious moments in the film. Fred Armisen shows up as a visiting bishop later on and of course, everything goes joyfully wrong upon his arrival, resulting in some of the best scenes in the film. He and the rest of the rest of the supporting cast all did a great job.
The Little Hours is fairly enjoyable, fit for anyone looking for a decent period piece comedy. It’s weird, brash, vulgar, and yet oddly charming. The characters are all decent people, even when they’re dancing at a ludicrous witch seance. The catalyst of Dave Franco sets them off on a path of comedic oddity and random moments, all adding up into one pretty funny, yet strange package that I really enjoyed.