A 14th-century convent isn’t the most expected setting for a raunchy sex comedy, but with The Little Hours, writer-director Jeff Baena adapts parts of Boccaccio’s Decameron into an absurd and hysterical tale of nuns gone wild.
After getting caught in bed with his master’s wife, servant Massetto (Dave Franco) hides out by posing as a deaf-mute gardener at the local convent (run by John C. Reilly, as a boozy but well-meaning priest). There Massetto attracts the attention of three repressed and slightly unhinged nuns: Alessandra (Alison Brie), Genevera (Kate Micucci), and Fernanda (Aubrey Plaza), all of whom descend on the hapless gardener with a crazy-eyed ferocity. (Think The Beguiled, with more witchcraft and drunken sing-alongs to Catholic hymns.) The dissonance between the austere setting and the filthy jokes brings to mind some of Mel Brooks’ or Monty Python’s most famous efforts, and the result is a screwball farce that’s heavy on the improv and the creative insults.
Despite the medieval setting, The Little Hours can occasionally be poignant in its observations about modern femininity and repression. But really, this wacky comedy is little more than an excuse to watch Plaza hurl expletives at a local farmer or Fred Armisen strut around as a holier-than-thou bishop. At a slim 90 minutes, it’s well worth it to get thee to this nunnery. B