Breaking my unspoken rule about seeing films I can watch elsewhere, I went to The Little Hours [2017] – John Baena. Its offbeat, profane humour was an entertaining addition to the Fantasia International Film Festival.

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I offhandedly described this as “nuns getting dirty somewhere in Italy” and that’s … basically the premise. It’s based on the tale “Masetto” from Boccaccio’s The Decameron, which borrows from the same sources that Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales did… meaning it’s already smutty as all get out, and ripe for a comedy adaptation.

A handsome servant caught sleeping with his master’s wife is forced to take refuge in a convent, where the nuns swiftly begin competing for his attentions. Brief and hilarious forays into witchcraft, drug use and lesbianism are either taken from other tales or fabricated entirely (I wouldn’t be too quick to dismiss either option).

The cast may very well be playing medieval versions of themselves, or their most-frequented roles. Aubrey Plaza is occasionally sullen and occasionally violent (some kind of mix between Parks and Rec’s April Ludgate and Legion’s Lenny?), Kate Minucci is kooky but innocent, John C. Reilly is both bumbling and endearing, Alison Brie alternates between winsome and spoiled…. I’m going to stop here, because the entire cast is well-known and worth getting excited over.

The loaded cast and vulgarity-laden script stand in refreshing contrast to the gorgeous Italian countryside and score by Dan Romer—the nuns getting drunk on sacramental wine and singing hymns in three-part harmony is just one example of how this high-brow, low-brow juxtaposition plays out. The cinematography is also beautiful—something about the wide shots gave me a distinctly Monty Python and the Holy Grail vibe.

little hours 3Is this ground-breaking? Of course not—it’s another sexy dumb summer comedy. But there’s enough pluses to make it a worthwhile foray if you’re in the mood for something crass…and if you’re not, this might still be worth giving a chance when it comes to town this August.

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