The only differences between “now” and “then” are that people in the time of The Decameron had to hand-draw their dick pics and scribe their smut with ink-dipped quills. Surrounded by a culture consumed with redundant retreads and remakes, writer/director Jeff Baena reached in the way, way back to repurpose Giovanni Boccaccio’s collection of novellas from 14th century Italy. Although technically the oldest remake 2017 is likely to see, The Little Hours legit feels fresher than the bulk of what makes each year’s Black List. The throwback raunch-fest may not be perfect, but it gets bonus points for a high-degree of starting difficulty and for Kate Micucci. Because nothing is so broken that a little Micucci can’t fix it.
The Little Hours is a period piece only extremely superficially concerned with its period. Nobody has an accent, and there’s modern drywall visible in almost every interior scene. But the narrative is at least allegedly set centuries ago. A peasant named Massetto (Dave Franco) is schtupping the wife (Lauren Weedman) of his lord (Nick Offerman) and must flee when he is found out. He stumbles upon a drunken priest (John C. Reilly) who offers Massetto protection in a convent, provided he pretend to be a deaf mute.
The “deaf mute” thing must do it for some folks, as Massetto is soon playing “hide the hymnal” with Alessandra (Alison Brie), a nun who longs to escape her boring life. Fernanda (Aubrey Plaza) longs for something too, but her outlet is some nun-on-nun action with Ginerva (Micucci) and other, far more illicit activities that represent spoilers. Yes, I am attempting to remain spoiler-free about source material that was written in the 1300s.
Despite being chockfull of church no-nos, The Little Hours flirts with boredom at times. Its laughs are never gut-busters and are never delivered in waves or spurts, even if “waves and spurts” sounds like exactly the sort of thing Boccaccio would have written about. Instead, the film is perpetually pleasing, mostly by virtue of its can’t-miss cast and genuine lack of concern for convention. Plaza reminds everyone they should be so lucky as to be screamed at and harassed by her, Reilly once more proves himself a virtuoso at playing “drunken but well-intended oaf” and Micucci steals the show (per usual) with her willingness to go 110% bonkers.
More than anything, The Little Hours is proof that modern finger-wagging and moral crusading about ribald entertainment is nothing new. Religious conservatives raging about depictions of same-sex relations in fiction are no different now than hundreds of years prior; they just have the internet and a longer life expectancy during which to bigotedly bitch. The film is also a reminder that cobwebbed content can be pleasantly resurrected and that raunchy, silly shenanigans is a core component of our creative DNA. In an age overshadowed by blockbuster colossuses, The Little Hours is genial, goofy goodness that cleanses palates with old-school filth.
Grade = A-