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More dope on "The Wackness:" Interviews Part 2

So you toss the word “misogynist” around the hip young director and his ingenue star and everyone gets bent out of shape. I mean, of the three women in “The Wackness,” one (Stephanie played by Olivia Thirlby) is a cold-hearted, selfish and hedonistic bitch, her mother, played by Famke Jannsen, is a cold-hearted, joyless shrew, a chick named unity played by Mart-Kate Olsen is a drug addled Park Avenue ditz and the hero’s mother is a nag. Not that these are necessarily bad things; I liked the movie. But let’s see if the director Jonathan Levine and Thirlby can talk their way out of this one.

JL: ..but that’s me personally. Perhaps that’s something that subconsciously wells up in the movie, but I think that in many ways I try to be as fair as possible and I think that’s the great thing about having Olivia in the film, having Famke in the film, and Mary-Kate, that perhaps on the page these characters are less sympathetic, but these guys are so wonderful that they can sort of fill that out in a beautiful way. And I don’t know if it’s misogyny or not. I wish I could tell you. I wish that I could analyze it in that way, but I think that for me the female characters in the film, the men are all kind of at the mercy of these female characters in a way and that’s often how I feel with women. My problem is that they hold a great deal of sway over me and perhaps there is kind of a reactionary response to that that converts itself into some sort of animosity, but I would like to hope that deep down the movie is really about people and really cares about all the people in the film. I don’t know. Now I feel like maybe I’m a dick.

OT: No. You’re not. You’re not a dick. If I may, I have to comment on this. I’m really sensitive to things that I think are misogynistic because I think that it comes out by accident a lot and I don’t think this film is [misogynistic] whatsoever even though the two main characters are male and thus given to discussing women and sex in a very frank and male way. I think that the females in the film… I don’t think that it’s misogynistic to depict a female who can use her feminine wiles and is confident and is sexual. I think the other way around. I think that at least between Luke and Stephanie, Stephanie wears the pants. Luke is like a little bitch. He doesn’t know how to deal with the fact that this is his first tiem and for Stephanie it’s just

PK: He’s the blushing virgin and your character plays the sexually  confident one. A role reversal [folding his position like a cheap suitcase]

OT: I think that if it’s done right the femme fatale character can be the ultimate feminist character and not given to those kind of I don’t think that Stephanie is a character that is a male fantasy.

JL: No. I think she’s a real person and that’s what’s sort of so great about. I think that the shifting power dynamic is something that’s very interesting to look at. And the great thing is that, Olivia, with what you did especially, you can always see the inner life flipping behind this characters eyes and you can always see the motivation even when the characters are not necessarily acting sympathetically and I think that the male characters do that too. You always, I think any sort of misogyny in the film would come as an active defense mechanism. It’s like a fall back thing, that’s what these guys are clinging to and it’s because they are so under the sway of the women in their lives and they can’t find any degree of control over it so they have to cling to their misogyny and I hope that’s more of the characters of the film and less of a macro thing

PK: [increasingly sycophantic] It’s a pretty accurate portrayal of the adolescent mind.

OT: I think so. The male mind which is kind of adolescent regardless of what age. I mean the truth is that boys will be boys and there’s a distinction between guy talk, which is frank and you could interpret it as offensive, but who’s gonna do that. There’s a difference between that and actually chauvinism I think.

PK: Which is where the soundtrack  gives cues. I’m talking about Donovan of course.

JL: Donovan was a real woman hater. You can tell. All his rhymes are about bitches and hos.

PK: You mentioned this in another interview how the focus of the movie sort of switches from Luke character to Dr. Squires [the Ben Kingsley character], did that occur in the course of the shooting?

JL: No, it was originally in the script. It was this POV shift about half way through and then it shifts from focusing on the relationship between the sort of buddy movie of it to the kind of blossoming romance as well, but it does, it shifts to Kingsley. It always shifted to Kingsley in the script around page 40, page 50.

PK: It also seemed to me, he’s sort of a 60s leftover and the movie sort of reminded me of some of the films that came out in the 60s about you young men being initiated like “The Graduate,” obviously,  or… did you ever see “If…”?

JL: I never saw “If…”

PK: It’s a good one. Were you influenced by those?

JL: “The Graduate” certainly was one of the seminal films that I saw that made me want to be a filmmaker. I think that we watched that a lot. We watched a lot of, myself and the producers and my DP, watched a lot of kind of May-September buddy movies, whether it be “Wonder Boys” or “Harold and Maude,” stuff like that, and we also watched a lot of Cameron Crowe type stuff, whether it be “Almost Famous” or “Say Anything,” all that stuff kind of combined to a hodge podge of influences, but for me the stuff that influeced me most growing up is like early 90s independent film whether it’s Todd Haynes or Spike Lee all that stuff is really, that informs more the attitude

PK: There’s a lot of Spike Lee in your movie

JL: Yea, definitely. The kind of in your face provocation. The kind of willful roughness in a way.

PK: When you graduated from high school was it as memorable a year for you as it was for the character in this movie?

OT: Yea, I mean it was a little atypical my own experience. I graduated in 2005, so 10 years, 11 years behind the curve of the kids in this movie. In a lot of ways it was very different, in a lot of ways it was exactly the same.

PK: Is your heart broken?

OT: Not yet. Almost. I actually didn’t. It was a little atypical for me because I got my first acting gig when I was about to graduate, so I actually left school a little early.

JL: But it was the high school that Olivia went to was very similar

OT: Very similar I think it probably was not a far cry for the school that Stephanie and Luke graduated from

JL: In fact one of the reference materials was my buddy went to the same high school that she went to in ‘94 and I took his yearbook and that was one of the reference materials

OT:...  and the school is K-12, so in 94 I was actually at the school in 2nd grade and I was in the yearbook that they were using as a wardrobe reference. They were looking at the seniors page, but if you flipped to lower school, I was there in 2nd grade.

PK: So what are you guys doing now? I heard that you’re and I found this hard to believe because you had already been in one of his movies but you were taken off the cast of “Pineapple Express” and plan to boycott it when it comes out?

OT: Yea I don’t think that David had anything to do with that decision. I’m not boycotting it for the record. Somebody came up with that. That’s absolutely not true.

JL: I’ll go see it. You wanna go see it?

OT: I’m ready to go see it. It’s going to be hilarious. Plus, I participated in it for a while.

JL: But we should pay for “The Wackness” and then just sneak into it.

OT: OK.

PK: “The Wackness” got the audience award at Sundance and also at Los Angeles, but it seems to me like it’s going to be a really tough sell because it’s not really like a stoner comedy like Pineapple Express would be.

OT: It’s a bit of a mixture. It’s like very specific and very broad and universal at the same time.

JL: I mean I guess we’ll see. I think for me as a… and I’m a big summer movie film guy, but at this point I’ve seen so many explosions and computer characters, that I’ll be excited about, I mean I think beyond anything it’s a character driven movie so hopefully that is something that people will respond to at this point in the summer, but it’s challenging. It’s provocative and it’s different, but I consider those assets.

PK: What are you going up against?

JL: I mean “Hancock” comes out the same weekend, but I don’t think we’re really

PK: Another adolescent male character with super powers.

JL: I guess that’s true. I’m not sure that we’re gonna. I willingly concede to that, but I think that hopefully we can be a nice alternative for some people.

PK: Upcoming projects?

JL: Well, I’m adapting a book for Sony called “The Echelon Vendetta” and then I’m reading a lot of scripts, but the fact that I’m so proud of this makes it hard. I don’t want to do anything that sucks, so I’m trying to hold out and figure out the right thing.

OT: “Safety Glass,” “Dream of the Romans,”  “New York I Love You,” “Margaret.”

PK: These are all done?

OT: Yep, they’re in the can.

PK: So now you’re just relaxing. Doing crack.

 

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