James Cole Clay // Film Critic
The idea of nuns being naughty is a taboo that’s been joked about in comedy, but not like this. The nuns in Jeff Baena’s comedy THE LITTLE HOURS truly don’t give a flying F! The charm of the film relies on a 13th century period-piece filled with dialogue that’s ripped straight from 2017, minus talks about hashtags and Tinder, but filled with sexual angst.
As three nuns approach a perfectly affable peasant they berate him with insults and tell him to “F**K OFF!” Followed by acts of sexual deviances, course language and sinning — lots and lots of sinning.
The hilarious irreverent comedy features an A-list cast including Aubrey Plaza, Dave Franco, Molly Shannon, Allison Brie, Kate Micucci and John C. Reilly. Baena’s scripting nails the comedy with the help of improvisational takes from his cast that gel together like old friends. His subversion of humor is about as inventive as it has gotten in 2017 for a comedy, which tonally goes for the throat and never lets loose.
THE LITTLE HOURS dares to be different in a world of filmmaking that exclaims the only way to be successful is to assimilate, but not for Baena. This marks his third and strongest film. His previous works, LIFE AFTER BETH and JOSHY, both had heavy ad-libbed dialogue with similar casting, yet he continues to allow his filmmaking talent to improve by trusting his cast and instincts.
The three nuns – Alessandra (Brie), Fernanda (Plaza) and Ginerva (Micucci) – spend their days pretending to do their chores as they jockey for the attention of runaway stable boy Massetto (Franco), who was caught sleeping with the wife of his master (Nick Offerman). They hide from the bumbling Father Tommasso (Reilly) and good-hearted elder Sister Marea (Shannon), which develops this story into a screwball comedy filled with frantic scenes of misunderstandings and sticky situations as these women try to veil their sexuality from the higher ranking officials. For an American film, THE LITTLE HOURS is completely unashamed of embracing its sexuality.
As the situational comedy piles up, Massetto is constantly being taken advantage of by the nuns of the convent as they all mistake him for a deaf-mute young man, as he can never truly reveal their sexual exploits. THE LITTLE HOURS mainly succeeds at giving a showcase for the women leads – as well as Franco, who excels as a straight man – but this isn’t a dissection of sexuality. It’s simply an off-beat comedy with a few moments seasoned with social commentary.
There are moments when THE LITTLE HOURS does drag, yet that doesn’t fully detract the film from its fun first act. For a film about religion, this one is far from a comedy that will be forgotten.
THE LITTLE HOURS expands its release today.