Fans of off-kilter comedy should find something of value in Jeff Baena’s quirky spoof The Little Hours, a play on the 14th-century Giovanni Boccaccio novella The Decameron.
With hefty doses of witchcraft, torture, and pan-sexuality peppered throughout the script, it’s not hard to see some viewers being confounded by Baena’s film just as much as those who will find mass amusement; his decision to have his cast of characters speak like modern-day millennials against the medieval Italian setting is an instant sign of his temperament.
The ridiculous story, which only enhances the game cast’s willingness to commit to lunacy, follows a trio of young nuns (Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza, and Kate Micucci) living in a convent who each find themselves affected by the arrival of a young servant (Dave Franco). On the hunt from his vengeful master (a wonderful Nick Offerman), he is taken in by the convent’s kindly priest (John C. Reilly) who puts him to work as a handyman of sorts, telling the nuns he is deaf and mute as to avoid notice.
It doesn’t take much to garner where The Little Hours will travel in terms of Franco’s dynamic with Brie, Plaza, and Micucci, although their individual reactions (and ultimate personal revelations) certainly evolve to a series of amusing sequences that play into Brie’s good-girl-gone-bad mentality, Plaza’s sarcastic mean girl, and Micucci’s influential personality that constantly feels on the verge of unhinging itself.
Running just under the 90-minute mark, The Little Hours never overstays its welcome, and just as well too given that there’s a slew of jokes that don’t land as strongly as others; on the whole though, there are more successful comedic executions than not. For a film thats modest budget appears evident, it’s certainly managed to compile a haul of talent with Molly Shannon (as a kindly mother superior), Fred Armisen (as a fellow priest) and Paul Reiser (as Brie’s well-to-do father) rounding out the ensemble, whilst Dan Romer (a no-nonsense composer who has such acclaimed titles as Beasts of No Nation and Beasts of the Southern Wild to his name) handles music duties.
Though it’s unlikely to earn much notice during a theatrical run, The Little Hours has all the makings of a streaming/home viewing market cult hit. A fun, irreverent, often non-sensical comedy, Baena indeed has a little gem on his hands, one that is worth the digging for willing explorers.
Review Score: THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
The Little Hours screened as part of the Sydney Film Festival, where it was reviewed.