THE LITTLE HOURS (90 R)
A young servant fleeing from his master takes refuge at a convent full of emotionally unstable nuns in the Middle Ages. Introduced as a deaf blind man, he must fight to hold his cover as the nuns try to resist temptation.
Director: Jeff Baena
Writer: Jeff Baena
Stars: Alison Brie, Dave Franco, Kate Micucci, Aubrey Plaza, John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon, Fred Armisen, Jemima Kirke, Nick Offerman
“The Little Hours,” a film with echoes of Mel Brooks in its non-contemporary setting, broad physical comedy, unexpected punchlines, and gigantic ensemble (seriously, every other face is a recognizable one). Baena uses one of the stories of The Decameron as the inspiration for a comedy of religious people who don’t exactly have the expected moral code for a film set in a 14th century convent. Baena may have used The Decameron explicitly but he’s also inspired by physically-driven comedies of the ‘70s and ‘80s, with echoes of “The History of the World, Part 1” and Monty Python’s work. It’s often hysterically funny, especially when allowing its talented cast to play up to their individual strengths.
That cast is led by Alison Brie as Sister Allesandra, living a simple life in a convent, although her sisters are jealous of her greater creature comforts courtesy of her father’s (Paul Reiser) donations to the church. Said sisters include the foul-mouthed and possibly sociopathic Fernanda (Aubrey Plaza) and the more demure and chaste Ginerva (Kate Micucci). Their simple life is interrupted when a young man named Massetto (Dave Franco) takes up residence as a handyman in their convent. Hidden there by Father Tommasso (John C. Reilly), Massetto pretends to be a deaf-mute (again, so Brooks) so as not to raise suspicions. Of course, this only makes him more fascinating to the sisters, who all try to sleep with him. Molly Shannon co-stars and Nick Offerman and Fred Armisen practically steal the movie in just a few scenes.
“The Little Hours” can be summarized in the word “enjoyable.” I laughed, multiple times. And that’s really all Baena wants here. He’s not making any grand statements about religion or sexuality. He just wants you to laugh. And I did. A lot.
– Brian Tallerico, RogerEbert.com