Film Review: The Little Hours

We are living in a golden age of movies about women behaving badly getting greenly. That doesn’t mean that these films will be all that great. Case in point, the misfire that is The Little Hours, an R-rated take on The Decameron, which can settle into a groove enough to truly exploit and support it’s very game actors.

The Little Hours is centered mainly on a tiny convent in the European mountains. Convent life is boring for the nuns, who take to berating the gardner for fun and struggle with their place in isolation. Their peace and sanity is unsettled when a young man, who is escaping death for sleeping with his boss’ wife, is brought to the compound. The women are drawn to him and his muteness (and good looks) and proceed to forgo their vows as all sorts of craziness ensues.

Unlike the bonkers The Devils or the delicious technicolor marvel Black Narcissus, The Little Hours occupies a weird nebulous tonal place. The movie isn’t raunchy enough to support the filthy dialogue but it’s also not tame enough to allow the blunt comedic stylings of the actors to not feel extremely out of place. Rather than just be surprised, I was kind of adrift the entire movie trying to figure out what exactly they were going for. It’s not enough to just be filthy, we can get that in most comedies nowadays. Your mess should come from a place of character rather than just having actors that are known for being odd or foulmouthed being odd and foulmouthed.

Even with the above, you’re still carried through the film through some pretty valiant acting in the ensemble. Not everything this group tries works, but golly gee they try. The MVPs of the cast were Dave Franco, Alison Brie, and Kate Micucci. Franco has always managed to nail characters amidst the craziest scenarios and he once again rises to the occasion, but also injects the movie with a kind of sadness and, when needed, terror. Of course as he’s caught in the thrall of nuns like the ones Alison and Kate play, those beats aren’t difficult to play. Brie gives the movie its most heartfelt performance, as her nun is stuck their by virtue of family issues, but is equally fierce when need be, and Kate’s got the biggest arc, and wildest stuff to play, and she nails it.

It’s just too bad that these three couldn’t do much more to elevate the material past the tonal struggles that make The Little Hours a lackluster film.