There is something delightful around every corner (and a few lovely curves) in The Little Hours, a medieval farce with wildly anachronistic language directed by Jeff Baena.
The script is based on a cycle of stories from The Decameron, a collection of 100 novellas by the 14th-century Italian author Giovanni Boccaccio (1313–1375). It pre-dates The Canterbury Tales and is thought to have been an inspiration for them. Knowing this sets an expectation that the material might be heavy and dry but it’s not at all: light sex farce medieval Italian style.
Kate Micucci, Aubrey Plaza, and Alison Brie play angry, profane, and perverted nuns at a convent in the 14th century run by Father Tommasso (John C. Reilly) and Sister Marea (Molly Shannon). A young servant named Massetto (Dave Franco) from a nearby manor stumbles into the priest as Masetto is trying to escape his master Lord Bruno (Nick Offerman) after being caught with the Lord’s wife. Tommasso takes him in and gives him a job as gardener, but being an attractive young man he catches the eye of the surly and often violent young nuns.
“Kate Micucci, Aubrey Plaza, and Alison Brie play angry, profane, and perverted nuns…”
Tommasso insists that Massetto pretend he’s a deaf mute to keep the nuns from asking too many questions, which works until each of the nuns in turn decides Masetto would be a good place to start their deferred sexual explorations. A friend from town, Marta (played by Girls’ Jemima Kirk) helps the ladies steal wine and drunkenly holds forth about the joys of sex, which sparks their interest in finding out for themselves. Hilarity definitely ensues.
Nudity happens more than one normally expects from a film featuring nuns (in a mainstream film anyway).
John C. Reilly showing up in a movie is like your best friend wandering in through the open garage door with a cold 6-pack. You know you’re going to have a nice chill time. There are real laughs in his portrayal of a priest a little too fond of dipping into the sacramental wine (and the Mother Superior as well).
Nick Offerman is killing it this year, he just gets better. In this film he’s playing Lord Bruno, master of a manor and obsessed with the as-yet-to-materialize foreign invasion he’s been predicting for years. His deadpan delivery and ridiculous costume are hilarious.
“There are even witches, but not the type that weigh the same as a duck.”
Plaza was producer on this film and along with director Baena created an environment that was very loosely scripted, most of the dialog is improvised. Portlandia’s Fred Armisen pops in at the end and the chaos gets even more chaotic.
I was reminded more than once of Monty Python and the Holy Grail as the film careens from one outrageous situation to the next. There are even witches, but not the type that weigh the same as a duck.
The Little Hours (2017) Written and Directed by: Jeff Baena. Starring: Alison Brie, Dave Franco, Kate Micucci, Aubrey Plaza, John C. Reilly, Nick Offerman, Molly Shannon.
7 out of 10