The Little Hours fuses arthouse cinema with modern comedic stylings borrowed from Judd Apatow’s toybox. In other words, it’s a film with lovely cinematography and patient pacing, yet features bawdy behaviour and provocative profanity.
The R-rated content doesn’t serve as a crutch or a failsafe option for laughs though – this isn’t Your Highness. By not acknowledging glaring absurdities and allowing his cast to give genuine reactions, writer/director Jeff Baena (Life After Beth, Joshy) sticks to a specific method for comedy that could potentially be deemed as too risky for mainstream audiences. The filmmaker’s faithfulness, however, results in clever perceptions about staying devout in times of temptation and having to divulge in discomfort to feel normal.
Jeff Baena and his comedic cast (Aubrey Plaza, Alison Brie, Kate Micucci, John C. Reilly, Nick Offerman, Molly Shannon, Paul Reiser) don’t set out to make fun of religion either; almost as if they’re challenging themselves to work harder. The closest the film comes to some playful religious ribbing is when a confessional by a horny fugitive (Dave Franco) turns into an educational lesson on sodomy. This exchange, along with references to Catholicism (including the concept of young nuns living in an isolated convent), are used solely to play on the innocence of the film’s situational comedy and characters.
When naughty curiosities take over the convent, The Little Hours turns into a funny farce where sinners are caught red-handed by a visiting Bishop (Fred Armisen). As seen on Saturday Night Live and Portlandia, Armisen’s enthusiasm is tongue-in-cheek, but only because he believes in Bishop Bartolomeo’s sincerity. The sudden switch from his pleasant demeanour to his stammering disbelief will have you in stitches throughout the finale.
The narrative in The Little Hours may be based on existing material (Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron), but this comedy is as original as they come. This could very well be one of the funniest films of the season.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie