The opening scene of The Little Hours, which is based on Giovanni Boccaccio's 14th century novella The Decameron, is idyllic. Framed by wildflower-covered hills of Tuscany, a young nun slowly leads a donkey as a choir sings, presumably from a not-too-distant convent. Moments later, a young man smiles at two passing nuns.
"Good day," he says. "It's a beautiful morning, sisters."
"Don't fucking talk to us," screams one nun, reaching for a hatchet. The other chimes in with more profanity—the most I've ever heard spoken in 10 seconds.
The most blistering of the torch-tongued is none other than Aubrey Plaza, who rolled her eyes as April Ludgate for all seven seasons of NBC comedy Parks and Rec. Plaza is also a co-producer of The Little Hours, along with her boyfriend Jeff Baena, who wrote and directed the film. Co-stars include Molly Shannon (SNL), Alison Brie (GLOW, Community, Mad Men), Kate Micucci (The Big Bang Theory) and Jemima Kirke (Girls). John C. Reilly plays an often-tipsy spiritual leader, Nick Offerman (Parks and Rec) plays a conspiracy-obsessed landowner and Fred Armisen (Portlandia, SNL) steals the show in his role as a bishop. The first half of The Little Hours is comedy gold, profane as it is, but the second half goes off the rails. What was rascally becomes simple-minded, and what was wild morphs into weariness. The movie can't end soon enough.
For the record, Catholic group America Needs Fatima launched an online petition, saying the film "wrongly features priests and nuns taking part in immoral acts and using foul language." But after The Catholic League called The Little Hours "trash, pure trash," Baena added the quote to the movie trailer and poster. Well played, sir.