In the Middle Ages, a young servant fleeing from his master takes refuge at a convent full of emotionally unstable nuns. Introduced as a deaf mute man, he must fight to hold his cover as the nuns try to resist temptation.
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On the run from the battle-seasoned Lord Bruno for sleeping with his wife, the handsome and willing servant, Massetto, flees to the safety of the woods during the warm and peaceful summer of 1347. There, after a chance encounter with the always boozy but merciful Father Tommasso, the young charmer will find refuge into his convent's sanctuary, on one condition: to pretend he is a deaf-mute. However, Massetto's tempting presence will unavoidably upset the already frail balance of things within the sexually-repressed female realm, as nun after nun desperately seeks an escape from their tedious way of life and an extra reason to molest the charming handyman. In the end, will those cloistered Sisters finally find out what they had been missing out on all these years? Written by
Dave Franco, Kate Micucci and Molly Shannon have appeared in the TV Series Scrubs (2001). See more »
[Warning. Potential Spoilers Ahead]
Here are my sins. I have slept with another man's wife. He's a nobleman, and he is my master.
Well, that's adultery.
It's a very serious sin.
Sometimes... she would place her mouth around my sex.
Well, that's sodomy. It's also a serious sin.
Is it also considered sodomy if... if I placed my mouth on her sex while... she simultaneously had... had her mouth around mine?
Why would you do that?
Because, she... she liked it.
Oh. Well, yes, that's also ...
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Creative and fun period dress-up with great comic scenarios and little story
Several of today's top comedic actors gather to play medieval Italian dress-up in "The Little Hours," a loose adaptation from part of "The Decameron" created by indie comedic filmmaker Jeff Baena ("Life After Beth," "Joshy"). Foremost an experiment in bringing contemporary comedic approaches to an unexpected period setting, the film cashes in on some delightfully fresh laughs and bizarre scenarios even though the plot and story largely meanders.
The story's main focus is on three young nuns at a convent, Sister Fernanda (Aubrey Plaza), Sister Alessandra (Alison Brie) and Sister Ginerva (Kate Miccuci), each dealing with a myriad of pent up emotions. The catalyst to their wild behavior is the arrival of Massetto (Dave Franco), a servant on the run for sleeping with his master's wife who the convent's priest (John C. Reilly) takes in. Massetto agrees to do labor around the convent for refuge, but must pretend to be deaf and mute so the sisters will leave him alone.
This classic farcical setup provides a launching pad for strange behavior, and the largely improvised scenes have the tone of "what would 21st century people say and do if they lived in the Middle Ages?" Coming from the mouths of talents including (in addition to the aforementioned) Molly Shannon, Nick Offerman, Jemima Kirke, Adam Pally and Fred Armisen, a lot of the humor Baena's going for lands. For a film driven way more by comedic concept than story, having the right talent in front of the camera matters. The improvisational and sketch comedy chops of this cast keeps the random, directionless story interesting.
The biggest shortcoming of "The Little Hours" is that Baena appears to not have anything he wants to say, that there's no purpose behind the film other than to make a comedy that feels fresh and distinctive by using a classic Italian story as a platform for familiar antics. In many ways, that is purpose enough, but it keeps the ceiling fairly low on what "The Little Hours" can accomplish. Each little scene or comic exchange bares the responsibility of keeping the viewer entertained because we have not investment in the arc of the narrative.
Still, the brilliance of blending really old literary and theatrical tropes and contemporary attitudes leads to a number of worthwhile moments. Baena puts a twist on odd rituals to seduce men, confessionals and even witchcraft. The disconnect between these old practices and how people think today turns into a reliable source of humor throughout the film. Then there are all these supporting actors in the right places to sprinkle in different flavors. If you're a fan of all or most of the names attached to this movie, they are doing what they do best, and that counts for something.
"The Little Hours" tries to hit some dramatic and romantic notes and the film ends in such a way that suggests Baena was hoping some of the notes would strike a chord, but his film is mostly a creative string of good improv and sketch comedy that makes for an easy watch.
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