The Little Hours

The Little Hours

2017, R, 90 min. Directed by Jeff Baena. Starring Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza, Dave Franco, Kate Micucci, John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon, Fred Armisen, Jemima Kirke, Nick Offerman, Lauren Weedman, Paul Reiser.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., July 7, 2017

Bawdy nuns are usually good for cinematic laughs, and that holds true in Jeff Baena’s The Little Hours, which is loosely based on a story from Boccaccio’s The Decameron. The film is a comic sex romp that feels as though it might have sprung from a Monty Python sketch, although its humor speaks in a tongue less biting and sharp than those Pythonites’. The Little Hours is amusing and ambitious, although it’s awfully one-note and diffuse. Given the huge array of comic talent marshaled to appear in this production, hitting anything less than a bull’s-eye inevitably feels like a missed target.

Although set in the Middle Ages, the characters in The Little Hours speak modern English. Profanity, gossip, and ill will are common traits among the sisters. “What the fuck?” is their most frequently uttered expression. These nuns are more like characters in a salacious Almodóvar farce than a medieval Pasolini tale. Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza, and Kate Micucci play bored convent nuns. Molly Shannon is their mother superior and John C. Reilly is the convent’s priest, who has a fondness for the holy wine as well as the mother superior. Dave Franco is the servant Massetto, who flees his master (Offerman) after being discovered sleeping with the nobleman’s wife (Weedman, one of the film’s standout performances). Massetto takes refuge in the convent, where the nuns believe him to be deaf and mute, and take turns defiling him. Jemima Kirke enters the indecorous fray as one of the lesbian witches who frolic in the woods, and Fred Armisen shows up to play a bishop who is shocked, truly shocked, to learn of the sins taking place inside the convent’s walls. Yet, as a whole, the film plays out like a series of titillating scenes rather than a blasphemous charade.

Admittedly, it’s something of a cheap blow to condemn a film for not being funnier than it is. But The Little Hours is a farce that doesn’t really mock anything. It exists as if amusing itself were its only objective. In that, this troupe may have succeeded, but I feel compelled to throw back the film’s favorite phrase: “What the fuck?”

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Jeff Baena Films
Spin Me Round
Lumpen anti-rom-com won't turn heads

Richard Whittaker, Aug. 26, 2022

More by Marjorie Baumgarten
The Fabelmans
Steven Spielberg presents his own origin story

Nov. 25, 2022

Bones and All
Chalamet and Russell glisten with blood and love in this cannibal road trip

Nov. 18, 2022


The Little Hours, Jeff Baena, Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza, Dave Franco, Kate Micucci, John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon, Fred Armisen, Jemima Kirke, Nick Offerman, Lauren Weedman, Paul Reiser

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle