The best part of the film is the contrast between the medieval setting and the contemporary sexual politics. The female characters are all engaging in forbidden sexual activity with abandon, not just with Massetto but also with each other.
Have you ever heard a nun swear? Do you want to? If the answer is no, then The Little Hours is not for you. A raunchy little medieval comedy that seems to exist only to transgress and delight, the film is everything you didn’t know you needed from producer and star Aubrey Plaza, supported here by an ensemble cast of some of the finest comedic actors working today.
It’s difficult to explain The Little Hours without sounding a little deranged. The convent set comedy is drier than the desert in summer, but it’s also hilarious and vulgar in the best possible way. In summary, a quiet convent is disrupted when a young man pretending to be a deaf-mute to avoid suspicion joins their ranks and sets the chaste women’s passions afire. Hijinks and lots of impromptu sex ensue, and the plot takes a sharp left turn that is very unexpected but somehow shouldn’t be given the subject matter.
Centered on a small group of misbehaving nuns with sailor’s tongues, the film is immediately grounded by their distinct archetypes. Sister Fernanda (Aubrey Plaza) is rude and violent, prone to tongue lashing any who displease her even slightly. Sister Alessandra (Alison Brie) is chaste and well-mannered, and biding her time until her family can afford to pay her dowry so she can marry and Sister Genevra (Kate Micucci) is mousy but mean, constantly tattling on the others to the Mother Superior (Molly Shannon). The women barely get along and are constantly bickering, but when farmhand Massetto (Dave Franco) turns up, they take to spying on each other other and plotting ways to have their way with him. These may just be the randiest nuns ever committed to film.
The best part of the film though is the contrast between the medieval setting and the contemporary sexual politics. The female characters (all nuns except one) are all engaging in forbidden sexual activity with abandon, not just with Massetto (sometimes against his will, or at least without his explicit consent) but also with each other. Their disregard for religiously mandated celibacy is amusing and fun, highlighting the fact that the nuns are still women, and are not immune to human sexual desires. It’s also entertaining to see the women deal with those feelings in a variety of ways. Alessandra conflates hers with romantic love, having the closest to a consensual affair with Massetto, while Fernanda and Genevra both force him into sexual situations for their own ends; one as a precursor to her witchcraft, and the other as a way to not feel left out. Lauren Weedman is hilarious as Francesca, the lady of Massetto’s former household, and she continues to pursue him in ever more ridiculous situations even as her husband Lord Bruno (Nick Offerman) discovers the affair and threatens to kill her lover.
Most of the humor derives from the absolutely indignant line readings. Characters dress each other down with ease and flippancy, leaving Sister Genevra in particular at a loss for how to proceed. Fred Armisen’s late entrance as Bishop Bartolomeo is particularly enjoyable and he reads list of old-timey religious crimes they’ve all committed, indignant that the convent has descended so quickly into mayhem. Stuck in the middle of nowhere, the nuns have got the run of the place.
While not essential viewing, The Little Hours is good, dirty fun that you won’t regret. It’s always fun seeing the humour that can be derived from what should be ordinary situations.