Sydney Film Fest 2017 is now well underway, and last night I ventured out into the rainy cold to catch the first of seven movies that I'll be seeing, Jeff Baena's THE LITTLE HOURS.
This fluffy comedy took me by surprise. I was expecting something feather-light, at best an amusing extended gag, at worst something along the lines of forgettable stoner-comedy YOUR HIGHNESS. I'm happy to report that THE LITTLE HOURS bears no resemblance to that movie, and although it is indeed an easily digested little morsel, there's more than enough meat on its bones to elevate it above the feature length skit that some people are writing it off as.
Based on one of the stories from THE DECAMERON, Baena's bawdy tale follows horny servant boy Massetto, as he flees for his life from vengeful Lord Bruno into the "refuge" of a convent full of equally horny nuns. THE LITTLE HOURS immediately establishes its connection to Pasolini's '71 masterpiece, and '70s cinema in general, with an opening credits sequence ripped straight from that decade (but not from IL DECAMERON). Thankfully that's where the faux-vintage aesthetic ends, and it should go without saying that other than the same source material, this movie has little in common with Pasolini's film. If I were to dissect Baena's influences here, I'd go with a melange of Monty Python, nunsploitation and contemporary raunch comedy.
So what was it that surprised me about this film? I was expecting it to be funny of course, and in that it certainly delivered, with Fred Armisen, Nick Offerman, John C. Reilly, Alison Brie, Kate Micucci, Aubrey Plaza and Dave Franco all drawing huge laughs from last night's audience. However, where it caught me off guard, grabbing my full attention, was in its sudden left turn into tripped-out witchiness, and in the touching and even magical quality of its final moments. Add to that some very '70s-authentic location cinematography (Tuscany, Italy, with one shot featuring a hilariously obvious power line lurking in the corner) and a lovely score, and you've got a foul-mouthed, fucked-up and ultimately feel-good confection that tastes better than it might look.