Rated R

90 Minutes

Released June 30

 

This fun romp, The Little Hours, is a Middle Ages comic book. As such it is probably a much more realistic depiction of that time period than other historical films. Writer/director Jeff Baena has created a refreshing look at the humanity connecting us, through a timeline of some 550 years, with our ancestors.

Baena obviously knows the literature of the time, as the setting, the plot and the style of the film mirror two popular works of that period. Petites Heures du Duc de Berry, written around 1375-1385 (translation “The Little Hours”) was a “book of hours.” A book of hours was a very popular literary style of the day, a kind of a diary with richly colored minutely detailed hand-painted illustrations in the margins, within a religious framework. Each one is unique, though they are usually a collection of texts, psalms and prayers.

The other work of literature that is referenced in this story is “Decameron” by Boccaccio, written during the scourge of the Black Death in Florence (1348 to 1353). That work was is a collection of erotic and tragic tales surrounding seven young women and three young men who have taken refuge in a secluded villa outside the city to escape the pandemic. You can actually view a high-resolution digital copy of the “Petites Heures” online – you will see the humor and detail – or you can go to Paris and view the book “in person” at the Royal Library. These books were the Facebook and Twitter of their time. They were very popular and tens of thousands of them were created, usually by monks.

This movie is a hilarious cross between a Book of Hours and Saturday Night Live. If you look at some of the tiny illustrations painted down the margins of “Petites Heures” you will see that they are realistic – portraying animals, landscape and humans in both elegant and candid poses, as if caught off guard by someone with an iPhone camera. Landscapes are described and painted in detail. Animals of all types are shown, often humorously.

The dialogue in The Little Hours is written in today’s vernacular, and the timing of this group of seasoned comedic actors is priceless. You will start to realize that in spite of the time span separating us, we are really the same as our medieval ancestors. The score by Dan Romer is a whimsical take on the religious music and chants of the time, with a good beat added. The visuals are rich and realistically portray the landscapes as shown in that time period. The filmmakers put together a cast of some of the best comedians working in the business today, including Alison Brie, Dave Franco, Kate Micucci, Aubrey Plaza, John C. Reilly, Jemima Kirke, and Nick Offerman.

The irony is that the illustrative literary works that were so popular in medieval times were commissioned by wealthy nobility, playing a role similar to that of executive producers in the movie business today. So, The Little Hours is a most unusual comic book movie taken from medieval versions of today’s graphic novels. It’s a simple realistic, bawdy, hilarious look at what the people who lived in the Middle Ages were probably really like.

 

Kathryn Whitney Boole has spent most of her life in the entertainment industry, which is the backdrop for remarkable adventures with extraordinary people. She is a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. kboole@gmail.com. For previously published reviews see https://kwboole.wordpress.com

 

 

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