The Little Hours is a raunchy comedy about a convent of volatile, sexually-frustrated nuns (Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza, and Kate Micucci) that is turned upside down when a handsome servant (Dave Franco) comes to work as the convent’s handyman. The film is directed and written by Jeff Baena (Life After Beth, Joshy) and is adapted from a story in the collection of novellas call The Decameron. This comedy has been much anticipated due to its satirical spin on religion and its star-studded ensemble including Molly Shannon, John C. Reilly, Nick Offerman, and Fred Armisen. Taking in all these factors, I was pretty excited and only slightly disappointed in the outcome. Though the comedy works for a good portion of the film, The Little Hours never really reaches the level of talent that its cast possesses.
To start off on a high note, the cast is the obvious highlight of this film. Though a decent-sized ensemble, every character is given a time to shine. Brie, the good girl Alessandra, who is restless to get married; Plaza, the abrasive nun/witch Fernanda; and Micucci, the shy tattletale, all have palpable chemistry together, with Micucci owning the second half of the film. John C. Reilly delivers a lot of great scenes as the drunk Father Tomasso at the convent who employs Franco’s Massetto as their “deaf mute” groundskeeper, which was funny in and of itself as Franco has the task of trying not to talk (or laugh) at the hilarity going on around him. The film also features scene-stealing performances from Nick Offerman and Fred Armisen, as Massetto’s master and the Bishop of the convent, respectively. I was almost more interested in their characters than I was in the main cast. Actually, now that I think about it, I would have rather had the movie be about Massetto and Lord Bruno’s estate. I definitely give The Little Hours credit for being able to juggle all these characters and give them their proper due. Even minor characters are familiar faces that contribute some really funny stuff.
The interesting part about this movie that excited most people was the satire wrapped up in putting this type of comedy in a period setting. The latter works very well, with the characters using a combination of modern language (mainly profanity) mixed with medieval phrasing which makes for a lot of comical situations and conversations. One bit in particular revolved around Alessandra being made out to be like a trust fund baby, with characters constantly calling her out for the money her father donates to the convent. The language was also used pretty well. It never came across as excessive to me (but be warned: definitely don’t go and see this with kids or your grandparents as things would get awkward pretty quickly). Satirical elements work most of the time, but my problem with them come down to how the movie played it a little safe. A lot of the comedy surrounding the convent was situational, but the movie wasn’t trying to poke the bear too much. This might be a personal preference, but to me, if you’re going to piss people off, you might as well give them a reason to be angry. The Little Hours takes a few jabs but no haymakers are thrown. That could really be said for the comedy in this film in general.
Comedy is probably the most subjective genre in film. Everybody’s sense of humor is different and hard to judge. For me, The Little Hours kept me at a consistent chuckle, but there were no big belly laugh moments. This is kind of to be expected when it comes to this type of dry, situational comedy, though the dialogue-driven laughs are also good, for the most part. Another complaint I have against this movie is due to its very choppy editing and pacing. Some scenes just don’t flow or transition smoothly and feel very awkward. It also doesn’t help when characters do something very out of character with no real context. This sometimes happens with ensemble casts, since you can only develop characters so much.