After reading the
story about Rep. Peter King threatening to investigate the White House's
cooperation with Kathryn Bigelow for her upcoming Bin Laden film, I started wondering again about whether or
not women have gained any ground in Hollywood
since Bigelow won her Oscar.
Well, last year was kind
of a wash, Oscar-wise" Lisa Cholodenko ("The Kids Are All Right") and Debra
Granik ("Winter's Bone") got Best Picture and Best Screenwriting nominations
but not Best Director and ended up winning nothing.
This Year? For while
the "women can be as gross and funny as men" movement looked promising with
"The Bridesmaids," co-written
by and starring Kristen Wiig, but bottomed out when Leslie Mann took a noisy
crap in "The Change-up."
More promising have
been the women working in indies. Like Miranda July, whose "The Future" got
a mostly positive, though extremely divided
critical response. Coming up next week is actress Vera Farmiga's
surprisingly accomplished and
affecting directorial debut "Higher
Ground." And then there's Brit Marling, the "it" girl at the last Sundance
festival, whose "Another Earth," which
she co-wrote (with director Mike Cahill) and which she stars in, opened a
couple of weeks ago. Her "Sound of My Voice," which
she also stars in and co-wrote (with director Zal Batmanglij), will be later this year. Brett Michel had a
chance to speak to her recently and, predictably,
the first topic of conversation was the
similarity of their names.
BRETT: We basically
have the same name.
BRIT: We might be
the same person.
BRETT: We're like a
BRIT: We're like a
mirror My gosh, are you me? Do you know more about me than I do? Do I know more
about you than you do?
BRETT: I've yet to
see "Boxers and Ballerinas" [a 2004 documentary
directed by Marling and Cahill ]. "Another Earth" utilizes the same theme, where
you have two sets of people - in that
case, a boxer and a ballerina, and another boxer and another boxer and a
ballerina - reflecting back at each other.
BRIT: I had never
considered that. It's like the same thing. A character to character - a boxer
and a ballerina in Havana, and a boxer and a
ballerina in Miami
- and then on a societal level - like the Cuban culture in a communist setting,
and then the Cuban culture in a capitalist setting.
BRETT: It sounds
like you spent a long time on it.
BRIT: I think one of
the reasons we gravitated towards fiction filmmaking afterwards is because, the
wonderful thing about documentaries is, so much of the story is just a series
of variables, and you have no idea what they're going to be, and life just
happens, and you're just catching it. And the narrative is, like, coming
together as you're experiencing it in real time, which is cool, because it
keeps you on your toes, but...I think the best documentaries have to follow their
subjects for decades to really say something useful. Like...
BRETT: Like the
"Seven Up" series?
BRIT: Yeah, or the
"Following Sean" series. Did you see
BRETT: I haven't.
BRIT: It's this
Ralph Arlyck film. He followed this kid from the time he was...he made a short
about the kid, when the kid was 3 or 5, this sort of skating kid in Haight-Ashbury,
and his parents were hippies, and his parents were pot dealers, and he would,
like, deal pot too. And he was this precocious young kid. And then that
documentary, that short, went to Cannes
and made Arlyck quite recognized as a filmmaker, and then he actually followed
the kid for the next, like 40 years. And that is a story, you know? And
that's something interesting. And that's
why, I think, after "Boxers and Ballerinas," I was like, it would be cool to
try and do fiction filmmaking, because you have a little more control over the
narrative than in a documentary.
BRETT: Well, would
you have any interest in revisiting the characters in "Another Earth"? There
are many directions these characters could go in...
BRIT: Would we want
to revisit them in, like, a sequel, or like, a television series?
necessarily a television series, but...presumably, the other Rhoda has
become, or is studying to become, an astrophysicist...
BRETT: ...and that's
what leads her to travel to this Earth...well, before I even go there...
BRETT: It drove me
crazy while I was watching this movie, I was sitting there thinking, I
recognize you: "Community."
BRIT: I love that
show. The humor is so adventurous in that show. The writers are so gifted,
and they go wherever they want. It's cool.
BRETT: But, you're
more than just an actress...You're also writing and producing. Do you have any
intention to direct as well in the future?
BRIT: I'm just
trying to figure out how to be a good actor and that consumes all of my
time. My heart, and my brain energy. To
me that is the most challenging thing. Your job description - what you're being asked to do - is so
against the way that the world is. It's like you're being asked to create an
illusion, an alternate reality in your head and live in that reality and
believe it so deeply that you can convince an audience of strangers to believe
in this fantasy with you too, and that, to me - I'm endlessly fascinated by
that, so I don't need to go anywhere else for kicks. I'm totally consumed by
just trying to get good at that.
BRETT: How much have
you touched the actual Hollywood machine so
far? I know you've got the one film you're doing with Richard Gere and Susan
Sarandon, "Arbitrage." That's got to be a
major studio production, yes?
BRIT: You know? I
don't know how that worked. It was certainly a bigger budget than "Another
Q. I'm curious.
After, say, "The Hurt Locker" had won some Oscars a couple of years back -
hopefully that's signaling the beginning of a change for women's roles in Hollywood. Do you see
BRIT: Yeah. I think
"Bridesmaids," for instance, is marking a real shift in comedy, which is women
being, like, fuck this, we don't have to be cute and sexy - the cute, sexy
sidekick in every comedy. We can be driving the action and we can be sexy and
funny and disgusting and forthright, and all of it. And its entertaining and
its great comedy, period. Not great female comedy, its just great comedy.
That's really exciting. I thought "Bridesmaids" was so progressive, and I
thought it was so cool that women wrote it and are acting in it. I think that
we're going to see more of that, because the truth is it's just really good storytelling
and there's been a gap there in the marketplace.
And just from a
purely financial perspective? There's money to be made. Whenever there's money
to be made, people are going to start figuring out how to make it, right? That's how Hollywood certainly approaches it. From a
more romantic perspective, I think a lot of...at least as an actress coming out
to L.A., I just found that...as a young girl, you're in your twenties, you've
never done anything before; the kind of roles you can read for, for women are just...appalling.
I mean, appalling.
BRETT: Well, most of
the female roles that end up onscreen are fairly appalling.
BRIT: Yeah, they're
pretty bad And there are so many talented actresses, and the great stories with
good female roles are so few and far between its, like, I mean, on some level,
yeah, I feel pretty excited to keep writing, just because I want to create work
for myself and I want to create work for other women, and I think a lot about
what it was like for me growing up. So much of how we think of women in the
world is based on what we're observing through film and television, and the
stories that that's telling us about what women are like. I don't think that
many people have gotten it right yet, so we better keep refining the thesis ‘cause I think it's important.
BRETT: I'm glad you
cite "Bridesmaids," because, before it came out, people tended to dismiss it as
"the female ‘Hangover.'" And then along comes "The Hangover Part 2," and it's
really not that good. It's a rehash of the original, and "Bridesmaids" was a
lot more original than that. And it was funny
BRIT: Totally. And I
think that the thing that will eventually change is that people will no longer
think of it as "the female ‘Hangover,'" they'll think of it just as
hopefully going to be remembered as a touchstone film...
Because the audience I saw it with was 50% men, 50% women, and everybody was
deeply entertained. So, I think what have to remove from the language, and the
discussion about it, is applying the word "female" to everything, as if it only
belongs...if it's created by women, it's only for women. Can you imagine
somebody being like...things that are created by men are only for men? Ladies are
supposed to love it too.
BRETT: "Sound of my Voice," when is that coming out?
Describe the film to me - in under ten minutes, of course.
BRIT: It's about a
couple that infiltrates a cult that meets in the basement of a house in the San Fernando Valley, but nobody knows where the house is.
BRETT: What kind of
BRIT: Well, they
don't know at first. They're documentary filmmakers, and they're brought in
through a garage, and they're made to scrub down in a shower and put on
hospital gowns. And then they're blindfolded and plasti-cuffed. Then they're
brought into a van and ferried to another house through the garage...And they end
up in this other garage. They don't know where they are, and they're brought
down these basement stairs, and in the basement, is a woman who never leaves
the basement chamber. And her followers, like, give her blood, and they're
growing her food in hydroponic gardens in the master bedroom. And, the question
is: why? And so this couple that
infiltrates the cult, pretending to be believers, are there to figure out why
she's amassing all these followers, and what she knows, and...
BRETT: Speaking of
interesting, you realize yours isn't the only new film that deals with another
planet entering the orbit of Earth...
BRETT: Not just that
The same day I saw your film, there was a screening of the third "Transformers"
film later that night...
BRIT: Oh wow,
there's another Earth in "Transformers 3"?
BRETT: Not another
Earth, but "Cybertron"...
Transformers' home planet. It's just very bizarre to me that I saw both this
and your film on the same day. And what the hell is going on? What's with all
BRIT: I actually
think I have an answer to that.
BRETT: Ok, enlighten
BRIT: I think we're
all obsessed with other planets and the possibility of other planets, or things
entering our solar system, because we're killing this one. And so it's like a
survival mechanism. Like, we're destroying this planet...There's like a
self-liquidation happening, and so everyone's daydreaming about how we could
occupy something else. I know it sounds kind of doom and gloom, but I always
think there's a possibility for turning things around. On any given day, you
could decide to change the way you are. So I'm kind of hopeful.
BRETT: What about
the governments, though?
BRIT: I don't know,
but...governments are just people. It's always just humans at the end, and if you
can reach the humans, then I think you can change the way people think and
BRETT: All right,
how long do you give us as a species?
BRIT: I think if we
radically alter the way in which we're living, then we could keep going. And if
we don't, then...well, we won't even make it for as along as the dinosaurs did.
We'll be like a flash in the pan.
BRETT: All right.
There was a profile on you that recently ran in the "New York Times Magazine..."
BRIT: I heard about
BRETT: In the article, you referred to your time at
Goldman Sachs as "deeply unsettling."
BRIT: You know, It's funny because when I went
there, there were all these people who were really passionate about that work,
and so they're really good at because they wake up every day with the markets,
and they love to be ahead of the curve, anticipating how these currency
prices and this commodity and this shift and that shift in trends is creating
advantages in the marketplace. But I just wasn't bitten by that bug.
BRETT: But you went
to school for that. What were you thinking?
BRIT: Maybe that's
why I have a preoccupation with a doppelganger. I'd love to turn around to that
girl and say: what were you thinking? But, its actually useful to have studied
economics because I think that's where so many ideas of how you could change
the status quo in a really good way would come from: changing the economic
system. That's a whole different discussion for another day, I guess.
BRETT: Perhaps even
BRIT: Perhaps in
BRETT: On the other
Another Earth." The other Earth runs on
ecological economics. It's completely different.