Loosely based on one of the tales from The Decameron, an assortment of short stories from 14th century Italy about love, sex and the humour of life, The Little Hours sees young servant Massetto on the run take refuge in a convent full of bored and horny nuns, his presence upsetting their already shaky dedication to their calling.
Jeff Baena (Life After Beth) delivers another tale that mines humour from the most inappropriate of places, coaxing performances of vulgar hilarity from his talented ensemble cast. Although the central concept might come across as little more than an overextended SNL skit, the story has enough turns and variations to keep itself flowing, largely driven by the exploits of bitchy and foul-mouthed ladies of bad habits. There seems to be a parallel drawn between the convent and an all-female boarding school, where the girls spend their days in the drudgery of resented routine, while at night sneak into each other’s rooms, get drunk, fool around, talk about sex, and perv on any attractive male members of staff who happen to catch their eye.
Each of the nuns has her own separate issues that drives her towards Massetto, his initial pretence of being deaf-mute in order to avoid scrutiny and be left alone instead having the opposite effect. Allesandra (Alison Brie) has a rich family who would rather she lived a life of celibacy and needlework than pursue her dreams of romance sees someone in whom she can spill her thoughts; the aggressive and coarse Fernanda (Aubrey Plaza remaining at her deadpan snarking best), uses him as someone else to torment while ordering around her underling Genevra (Kate Micucci), who is shy, insecure and still figuring herself out. Even the more mature characters (Molly Shannon as an elder nun and John C. Reilly as the resident father) are adults only in age, proving themselves to be just as selfish and irresponsible as the girls they fail to control, and it’s only a matter of time before burning secrets and mounting chaos threaten to erupt.
There’s quite a jarring contrast between the Renaissance Italy setting and the modern day American colloquialisms of the characters’ speech, but given the then vernacular in which the source material was written, you could argue it’s actually an appropriate direction to take. It also suggests that some aspects of the human condition never change, since despite being set six and a half centuries ago, the story is one that could have been updated to contemporary times with very little effort.
The humour is unabashedly crude and the dialogue largely improvised, but what could so easily have been merely a single Nuns Gone Wild joke stretched out to 90 minutes, The Little Hours is instead a riotous delight of brazen lechery and bawdy absurdity.
THE LITTLE HOURS / CERT: TBA / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: JEFF BAENA / STARRING: ALISON BRIE, DAVE FRANCO, KATE MICUCCI, AUBREY PLAZA, JOHN C. REILLY, MOLLY SHANNON / RELEASE DATE: TBA
Expected Rating: 7/10