An Italian convent becomes a hotbed of repressed desires in this farce that, with its strong roster of comic actors, should have been better.
A randy handyman, naughty nuns and a clothing-optional coven cause no end of agita in “The Little Hours,” a 14th-century farce that, given its comically credentialed players, ought to be a great deal funnier.
Inspired by stories from Giovanni Boccaccio’s “The Decameron” — seasoned with a sprinkling of Monty Python — writer and director Jeff Baena turns an Italian convent into a hotbed of repressed desires. Boccaccio might have had medieval audiences rolling in the aisles, but Baena squanders an R rating and a roster of household names while managing to raise little more than a smile.
At times, the atmosphere is so clubby that the actors seem to be performing mainly for one another. Centering on three irreverent nuns played by Aubrey Plaza (witchy and bitchy), Alison Brie (frustrated and snooty) and Kate Micucci (bi-curious and babyish), the goofy plot never finds its groove. Molly Shannon, in the role of senior sister, is virtually ignored, and Dave Franco’s hunky handyman is mostly just a ripped body for female characters to enthusiastically molest.
‘The Little Hours,’ with Alison Brie, Dave Franco, Kate Micucci, Aubrey Plaza, John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon, Fred Armisen, Lauren Weedman. Written and directed by Jeff Baena. 90 minutes. Rated R for graphic nudity, sexual content and language. SIFF Cinema Uptown.
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Lushly shot in northwest Tuscany by cinematographer Quyen Tran, “The Little Hours” is saved from ignominy by two brief standout performances. Fred Armisen’s monologue as a scandalized bishop is priceless; but it’s the fabulous Lauren Weedman (who injected warmth and pathos into the thankless role of a gay man’s best friend on the regrettably short-lived HBO show “Looking”) who rises above her one-note character. As a lust-filled lady whose lord leaves her cold, Weedman sucks every syllable dry. It’s too bad she doesn’t have more of them.
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