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Now Playing

The Little Hours

Playing at:   Camera 3 Downtown - Buy Tickets

Director: Jeff Baena (Joshy, Life After Beth)

Cast: Alison Brie, Dave Franco, Kate Micucci, Aubrey Plaza, John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon, Fred Armisen, Jemima Kirke, Nick Offerman, Jon Gabrus, Adam Pally, Lauren Weedman, Paul Weitz and Paul Reiser

Synopsis: Medieval nuns Alessandra, Fernanda, and Ginevra lead a simple life in their convent, until Father Tommasso brings on new hired hand Massetto, a virile young servant forced into hiding by his angry lord. Introduced to the sisters as a deaf-mute to discourage temptation, Massetto struggles to maintain his cover as the repressed nunnery erupts in a whirlwind of pansexual horniness, substance abuse, and wicked revelry. "Twisted, hilarious fun."--Variety

Running Time: 90 Minutes
(plus 8-10 minutes of trailers)

Official Web Site:
http://thelittlehoursmovie.com/

MPAA Rating: R

Showtimes

Camera 3 Downtown Buy Tickets
Sun-Wed (Aug. 20-23) at 9:00pm

Reviews:

Medieval comedy ‘Little Hours’ one of the year’s funniest

By Mick LaSalle

Writer-director Jeff Baena had a nutty idea, the kind most people talk themselves out of. How about a comedy about three nuns living in a convent in 1347? That sounds safe, doesn’t it? Everybody’s making movies like that, right? Well, maybe they will be after “The Little Hours,” because this is one of the funniest movies of the year.

It’s based on Boccaccio’s “Decameron,” but the dialogue is modern, so right away the clash between the setting and the sensibility creates comedy. In the opening scene, the groundskeeper says hello to three nuns, and they explode on him in a torrent of 21st century style cursing. It’s the moment that defines Baena’s approach, which combines an uncompromised commitment to the characters’ 14th century circumstances while giving them entirely modern attitudes.

There’s Sister Fernanda (Aubrey Plaza), scary and always ready to fly into a rage. There’s Sister Alessandra (Alison Brie), who keeps hoping her father will find her a husband. And there’s Sister Genevra (Kate Micucci), who is always looking to inform on the other sisters. They wear their habits and walk their donkeys and try to liven up the monotony by venting gossip and hostility.

Some novelty comes into their lives with the arrival of a new workman, Massetto (Dave Franco), who is on the run from a sadistic and half-demented lord. The village priest brings Massetto into the convent, but knowing how extreme and violent the sisters can be, he tells Massetto to pretend he is deaf. Not having to speak to the women keeps him safe but creates another problem. Because the women believe he can’t tell anybody anything, they feel free to have sex with him without fear of recrimination.

Baena combines a zany comic vision with a rare control of tone. Though very funny, “The Little Hours” remains low-key and subtle in its effects. There’s no winking or nudging, no straining for laughs. Baena devised the material, and he trusts it. For example, when we meet the lord, played by Nick Offerman, he’s talking at a dinner table in the most reasonable way about some Florentine conspiracy that’s obsessing him. It takes about a full minute to realize that he’s crazy.

Likewise, Fred Armisen has a funny turn as the visiting bishop, who is bewildered and appalled by the goings-on at the convent. But his reactions are very much within the movie’s comic lexicon, more nonplussed than outraged.

This uniformity of tone is especially impressive when we find out that most of the dialogue was improvised, based on a detailed outline. Baena was able to take what the actors gave him and to benefit from their inspiration, while keeping a tight control of the overall conception. So despite all the comic influences, “The Little Hours” seems to speak with one voice.

The women are terrific, all distinctly drawn and acted with serious comic commitment, with Aubrey Plaza’s depiction of dead-eyed amorality a particular highlight. Like the rest of the cast, Plaza never once telegraphs that she is in on the joke, and that makes it funnier.

Copyright 2017 San Francisco Chronicle

Hilarious Nuns-Gone-Wild Satiric Comedy

By Peter Debruge, Chief Film Critic

What for American satirist Jeff Baena (“Life After Beth,” “Joshy”) must have felt like a radically innovative idea — take a medieval piece of literature, such as Giovanni Boccaccio’s “The Decameron,” and recreate it with an irreverent modern sensibility — is in fact a strategy that Euro auteurs have been doing for decades. Not that a somewhat overinflated sense of novelty makes Baena’s twisted nuns-gone-wild comedy “The Little Hours” any less entertaining.

Only the most ascetic of filmmakers sets out to create a starchy period piece about naïve maidens pining away in airless old castles. The trouble is that even when such racy directors as Benoit Jacquot and Catherine Breillat attempt to modernize such material, between the subtitles and cultural differences, too much is lost in translation. “The Little Hours” is, then, a medieval convent comedy for the megaplex crowd, one that dispenses with the notion of nuns as prim-and-proper old maids who spend their days praying, and instead treats them as rude-and-repressed young women with raging hormones and a curiosity about all things forbidden.

It’s a strategy distinguished by an unapologetically raunchy comedic sensibility combined with the casting of a handful of hilarious TV actresses — Alison Brie (“Community”), Aubrey Plaza (“Parks and Recreation”), and Kate Micucci (“Scrubs,” “Raising Hope”) — as oversexed sisters. Instead of adopting European accents or speaking in old-timey English, the nuns come across sounding like a trio of Valley girls dressed in medieval habits, trading gossip and put-downs like jealous high-school students, while using vocabulary such as “boring,” “homosexual” and the F-word, which weren’t coined for several more centuries.

While studying film at NYU, Baena found himself dabbling in courses about sexual transgression in the Middle Ages — enough that he wound up with a minor in Medieval and Renaissance Studies, which is finally being put to good use. Among the lessons learned was the fact that many nuns were social outcasts or sexual misfits — divorcées, unwed mothers, or unmarriageable daughters — entrusted to the church’s care, and as such, that gives him license to treat them like contemporary teenagers.

Sister Alessandra is the spoiled brat, stuck in the convent by an otherwise wealthy dad (Paul Reiser) who can’t afford to pay her dowry. Sister Ginerva is the busybody, constantly sticking her nose in other people’s business, as if to distract from certain unnatural temptations. And Sister Fernanda is the party gal, sneaking off into the woods to commune with the wild, witchy women who dwell there (overseen by “Girls” rebel Jemima Kirke). Meanwhile, totally overwhelmed trying to deal with their hysterical young charges are the always-soused Father Tommasso (John C. Reilly) and beatific Sister Marea (Molly Shannon), who are having trouble respecting their own vows of chastity.

Meanwhile, in nearby Lunigiana — actually Malaspina Castle, its high walls reminiscent of the French fortress in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” — an idle lady of wealth and title (Lauren Weedman) amuses herself with the studly servant Masseto (Dave Franco) as a bored Beverly Hills housewife might. When this shameful cuckolding is revealed, however, her oafish husband (Nick Offerman, looking deliberately silly in dark beard and copper curls) chases Masseto from his land — and into the sanctuary of Tommasso’s chapel, where he earns his keep as a handyman.

Mistaking Masseto for a deaf-mute, the young nuns over-share their secrets, hatching various schemes to seduce the strapping newcomer. Though Franco clearly shares older brother James’ leonine smile and pan-sexual magnetism, his character is a variation on the randy farmhand Joe Dallesdandro played in Andy Warhol’s “Blood for Dracula” — a stock character commonly seen in Euro sexploitation movies, a tradition greatly invigorated by Italian poet-turned-helmer Pier Paolo Pasolini’s own hot-blooded take on “The Decameron” back in 1971.

Baena doesn’t borrow much from Boccaccio, other than the general setting, though his riff on the 14th-century author’s bawdy tales is more technically polished than equivalent Euro productions, even if the throwaway jokes hardly seem to merit such care (as evidenced by the way the story just peters out, rather than ending properly). Whether shooting sunlit Italian countrysides or campfire-lit pagan fertility rituals, cinematographer Quyen Tran elevates the joke with her splendid widescreen compositions. Since the characters are constantly hiding from or spying on one another, the film’s visual style follows suit, giving audiences the sense that they are peeping into a forbidden world.

Such irreverence extends to the soundtrack as well, with its tongue-in-cheek collection of choral pieces. Arrangements by La Reverdie and the King’s Singers lend atmosphere to the film, even as they seem hilariously, even blasphemously incongruous with the raunchy shenanigans on offer — as in a spontaneous a cappella number that interrupts the nuns’ bi-curious makeout session.

Though it all takes place in a religious context, Baena doesn’t pay those beliefs much mind, other than to slyly suggest how the church itself was put in place to repress the natural desires of its congretation. When Fred Arminsen shows up in bishop garb, his appearance is a punchline unto itself, and it’s no easier to maintain a straight face as he condemns these heathens for such peccadilloes as “living in pleasure” and “loving the world.” If that’s a season, then we’re all doomed.

Copyright 2017 Variety

       











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