By Jared Huizenga – Contributing Writer
If medieval nuns were foul-mouthed bullies that practiced blood magic and had the sexual proclivities of a modern-day fraternity, they’d be a lot like the ladies atop the bill of “The Little Hours.”
Alessandra (Alison Brie), Fernanda (Aubrey Plaza), and Genevra (Kate Micucci) aren’t exactly what comes to mind when you think of classic nuns. They’re nosy, they gossip, they tattle on one another, they skip confession, and they physically, mentally, and verbally abuse the handyman on a regular occasion.
To top it off, they seem to be doing the whole “nun thing” until something better comes along. In particular, Alessandra is biding her time until her wealthy family can marry her off.
That “something better” comes in the form of Massetto (Dave Franco) who is invited to take refuge in the convent by Father Tommasso (John C. Reilly) after he’s forced to flee from Lord Bruno (Nick Offerman), whose wife he was having an affair with.
While Massetto tries to hide his secrets from the father and nuns, he becomes an unexpected confidant for the ladies and a front row observer – and sometimes participant – in the debauchery taking place behind closed doors.
“The Little Hours” is based – loosely, I’ll assume – on “The Decameron,” which is a collection of work by Giovanni Boccaccio, who is apparently a 14th century Italian author (thanks, internet). I can’t speak to its authenticity – whether it’s an “update” or a full-on reimagining with only minor details remaining in place.
What I can speak to, however, is that the movie is ridiculously funny and vulgar … and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible.
As Seth Rogen’s character in “Zack and Miri Make a Porno” said, it’s “about taking the normal and making it abnormal.” And that’s what makes the elements at play here work so well. In a teenage sex romp, sex, alcohol, and profanity is no big deal. It’s expected, it’s the norm. Now, when you’ve got nuns swearing, imbibing, and attacking people with turnips, it’s absolutely absurd and ups the vulgarity ante a bit – at least at times.
One could say that writer/director Jeff Baena pushed the envelope here to be edgy or take a shot at the church, but that would be like saying “The Naked Gun” was taking shots at police officers. It’s so ridiculous and over-the-top for so long that it’s hard to be taken seriously – except in terms of laughs.
Don’t read too much into what’s below the surface here. Just go, laugh and think about the ridiculousness of the whole thing.
★★★★ of ★★★★★
Jared Huizenga is a freelance movie critic. Follow his work at www.facebook.com/JaredMovies.