[Contains damp embroidery and SPOILERS!!!]
Consider this: Aubrey Plaza and Kate Micucci dressed as nuns, swearing like sailors on shore-leave and making out together, before dancing (mostly) naked in the woods with a coven of witches. I know it sounds like something a sweaty-palmed perv like me would (and does) day-dream about, but it’s also an actual sub-plot in the medieval sex-comedy The Little Hours (2016)!
Loosely based on The Decameron, a collection of C14th novellas by Giovanni Boccaccio, this semi-improvised indie flick is centred around a small, isolated convent in the Italian countryside, run (rather poorly, it turns out) by ‘Mother Marea’ (Molly Shannon) and ‘Father Tommasso’ (John C. Reilly), who are unaware of what their profane charges are getting up to behind their backs, until the employment of a hunky young groundskeeper (Dave Franco) ramps up the friction and frustration felt by jealous “bad girl” ‘Sister Fernanda’ (Plaza) and spoiled “good girl” ‘Sister Alessandra’ (Alison Brie), leading to violence, drug abuse, and black magic/humour.
I’m not a big fan of comedies with a lot of adlibbing, because all-too-often the characters and stories become distorted by actors attempting to say the funniest thing they can think of, rather than the most consistent/convincing thing… but thankfully that isn’t the case here. The jokes are all pretty low-key, and firmly rooted in the cast’s established screen-personas, working hand-in-glove with the plot, to achieve an admirably cohesive whole. Although the contemporary speech and behaviour might warrant accusations of “anachronism”, they never threaten the fourth wall with references to future inventions/people, or break the spell of the strangely sweet little world they’ve created.
In case you couldn’t tell, I’ve fallen pretty hard for this film, and would happily rank it among my “Top 20 Comedies of All-Time”, if such a list existed. It’s also given me a slew of new images to use as my desktop wallpaper, though I’m sure I’ll eventually return to a pic of Plaza as the curly-haired-psychotherapist version of ‘Lenny’ from Legion, which returned for a third and final season earlier this week, and is even trippier than ever thanks to the addition of (intentional) time-traveller ‘Switch’ (Lauren Tsai). All hail “The Breakfast Queen”!