Wednesday, January 25, 2012

"Stuck" with a Director and Two Stars

Find Stuck Between Stations on Video

"Stuck" with a Director and Two Stars

(from 5/20/11)

In the booklet of films given to all critics at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival, Brady Kiernan's debut feature Stuck Between Stations was described by a programmer as "a portrait of restless youth torn between promise and malaise, and an authentic and affecting snapshot of a generational zeitgeist." Even if I could make sense of those words, I'm not sure I'd agree with them--and it's unlikely Id go to that film. To me, Stuck Between Stations is a charming, witty romance in the Before Sunrise tradition, only instead of two young good-looking strangers falling in love while talking their way around Vienna, our twosome spends an adventurous night wandering around Minneapolis. Actually, they're not total strangers. Casper (cowriter Sam Rosen) is a soldier who comes home on bereavement leave and meets up with his high school crush, Rebecca (indie favorite Zoe Lister-Jones, of the upcoming sitcom Whitney). Because they ran in different circles then, they never pursued a romance, but on this night before he returns to the service, they find themselves attracted to one another. He's closed off from people and has lost his father--his only semifriend in town is the wild and weird Paddy (Josh Hartnett)--and she's just out of an affair with her married professor (Michael Imperioli)--and somehow they find each other. Like me, I think you'll really like the two leads, root for the two characters, and be touched by the sweet and perfect ending. Here's my interview with Kiernan (in the middle in the picture), Rosen, and Lister-Jones (the star, cowriter and producer of Breaking Upwards). It was fun being stuck with them for twenty minutes.
Danny Peary: Brady, did you know Zoe and Sam before you made this film?
Brady Kiernan: I knew Sam because he was one of the stars of Four Boxes and I was the line producer. I had met Zoe a couple of times. I was very familiar with her work.
DP: Zoe's from Brooklyn and you two are from Minneapolis?
Sam Rosen: Yeah, me and Brady, and Josh Hartnett. I love it, man.
DP: Talk about the film's tagline--"Sometimes the best night of your life happens at the worst possible time." Isn't that the right time for big things to happen?
BK: I think the tagline is from Casper's perspective because he has to go back to the service. He would be with this girl, spending maybe the rest of his life with her but there is no chance to have that because he has to go back.
DP: So if somebody set up Rebecca on a blind date, would it be with Casper?
BK: No way.
Zoe Lister-Jones: Eh, no. That's a nice thing about the movie--that the chemistry between Rebecca and Casper is sort of unexpected. On paper these two people are very, very different.
DP: Sam, do you agree? Guys see it a little different than girls about who is meant for them.
San Rosen: I dont think Casper has any friends right now to set him up. But, no. I think that Casper is hanging out in a little bit of a different scene than the Rebeccas of the world. I think if somebody was going to set up Casper on a blind date, it probably would be with a wild party chick or hooker.
DP: Even at the very end?
SR: I think at the end, Casper's whole world has probably been effected by his night with Becky.
BK: I think Casper would set up Casper with Becky. But I dont think anyone that Casper knows would set them up.
SR: Right, and I think that's the cool thing about having the movie so contained to the two of them. They almost walk through the halls of high school at the beginning, and you see a little bit of others' reaction to them as a couple. You get them when they get to be in their own little world. It stops being about who each of them is.
DP: Did they miss an opportunity when they knew each other in high school? Were they even more mismatched then?
ZLJ: Well, clearly there was a missed opportunity back then, but probably their connection wouldn't have been as deep if they had been able to explore it in high school. I think it took their growing up--at least for Rebecca--to understand that this is a person that she could really invest in.
BK: And I think for Casper, definitely, that's one of the driving forces of the night. He feels that the opportunity was missed in high school, and he's just lucky to have Rebecca become more interesting than the version of her that he has had all these years.
DP: But he's always liked her, obviously. Did he say, if she really got to know me, she would like me, too?
SR: Oh, I think the he has always felt confident that if she got to know him she would like him.
DP: Why didn't she call him in high school when she had his number?
ZLJ: This is more character work than I think we did making the movie! I think it was just that high school is a really divided environment and he wasn't in her circle and she probably had other things going on.
DP: I was actually surprised she did remember him as much as she did. A validation of Casper?
SR: After he tells her that story about putting the note in her notebook, I think she's telling the truth when she says she doesn't remember it. There are missed opportunities. But thankfully for our audience, or for the sake of these characters, they've come together at this moment. I don't think they would have worked in high school. I think the only way they can work is by going through the things that they go through that night. The things they share are the crises and the damages that they've both sustained. They are able to share in that and understand each other better because of it.
DP: They're kind of perfect people for each other that night
BK: I dont know what perfect means, but I think Casper hasnt had anybody either validate or challenge him. Whether or not he thinks or is aware of that being what he needs, that is what he needs, and that's what the night is for him. Even if he doesn't grasp this as it happens because he's in it for his own reasons, it is what happens.
DP: Well, obviously Casper is helped by the presence of Becky. Is Becky helped by the presence of Casper?
ZLJ: Oh, totally. I don't think either of them are people who know how to ask for help, and so it's serendipitous that they fall into each other's lives at this moment when they desperately need it. He's an unexpected companion and source of assistance, both emotional and practical, for the night.
DP: The two stories that they tell each other--do you think they've ever told anybody else?
BK: I dont know if they've never told anyone else, but it's definitely something private. I think Casper hasn't told his war story to anyone else, but Rebecca has dealt with her story more. There's an intimacy that they're developing as they reveal more to each other.
DP: They're sharing the most private things in their lives.
ZLJ: Yeah, absolutely.
DP: So it leads of course to her line, "When you get back, call me, " which I think is a super-romantic line.
SR: I can't think who wrote that, Nat Bennett or I, but I love when just some real simple-ass sentence catches it, you know?
DP: Well, yeah, what better line can Becky say to Casper?
SR: I cant think of one!
ZLJ (laughing): "Let's have sex, now!" might be a better line.
DP: Well, it's basically, We're going to have sex when you get back.
BK: I think what you're describing distills very well why I think it is a hopeful ending. When she's leaving, you're feeling like it is going to happen, they are going to get together when he returns.
DP: Casper is very isolated, Becky mingles with people. But does anybody know either character for real?
SR: Nobody knows Casper.
DP: Even his platoon mates wouldnt know him?
SR: I dont think so. That's back-story stuff and whatever, that's not in the film, but I just don't see him as a guy who gets close to anyone. I don't see him telling some guys what's going on in high school, he's not talking to them about what went on back here or anything like that. I see him as a guy who's got walls up everywhere, whether they're walls he puts up by making jokes or by whatever he's doing. He keeps himself by himself.
ZLJ: I think Becky's more open but I assume that she's lost. I think that she shared a lot of herself with her professor boyfriend, and that she's capable of having pretty intimate relationships, but the fact that before she goes off with Casper she's hanging out with guys who are sort of dogs reveals that she's kind of coasting on a social level. She is not looking for people to be intimate with, she's just looking for an escape most of the time.
DP: Does she sense that there's something special about Casper that makes her get out of the car and go off with him?
ZLJ: Yeah, totally. I think that the first time they speak, there's instant chemistry and intrigue, and that's what draws her to spend the rest of the night with him.
DP: Would you agree with that, is that the pivotal moment for them?
SR: I think so. Men have what I like to think are interesting ideas of what to say to girls, and what would be a cool thing to say to get a girl interested.
DP: Well, Casper's line to her is "Who said I want to kiss you?" which is a key to making her interested.
SR: It's that, and the Dances With Wolves joke that seals the deal. Girls love that stuff!
DP: Zoe, do you like acting and talking in scenes where you walk down the street? You do that in Breaking Upwards, too, and you're good at it.
ZLJ: Yeah. I dont seek it out but it is a skill, because you have to walk slowly while making it seem natural. It's always nice to shoot outside, and I think it's nice for an actor to be given movement in a scene like that, because it allows the performance to be a little less staged and stale.
DP: In Breaking Upwards, your character's mother calls her needy and she gets upset by that. What about Becky, is she needy?
ZLJ: No, I think they're very different characters. I think Becky shares less of herself with people than my character in Breaking Upwards does. And I think she's a little less uptight. She doesnt wear her heart on her sleeve in the same way.
BK: That's why she and Casper connect so quickly. They see a lot of the same sort of thing in each other. Rebecca is more open, and she has more of a social life, yet she is still pretty closed off. She sees Casper in a state that she was in a year or two ago. She sees a lot of herself in him.
DP: Was there something to the names? Her last name is Fine, which kind of fits her image.
SR: I never thought about that Fine thing once when we wrote the script!
ZLJ: That's good!
SR: I really dont know about the Casper name, that was definitely one of Nat's ideas.
DP: There are people named that, though very few.
SR: I liked the way that it sounds right coming off your tongue. If you're going to introduce yourself to somebody in the movie, you'd better be able to sound convincing saying that name. His parents named him and the only thing that we know about Casper's parentage is that his father was kind of a hippie-ish photographer. There may be some ghost hints in there or something. I'm not sure. I just saw the name and I liked it.
DP: Why is it important that Casper's a Republican?
SR: I dont think he is Republican. He doesnt deny it, he doesnt feel the need. He just sees it as catching shit from his friend Paddy who thinks he's a Republican, and he's not going to explain shit to his friend. That's just how Casper is. He'll stick up for himself, but he doesn't feel the need to get into it with his friend. He doesn't feel the need to define himself to Becky.
BK: Until the end, he doesn't ever explain anything about himself to anyone, except for Becky.
He also doesn't care if somebody calls him Republican--call me Republican! What's that got to do with it?
DP: Well, the line about in his neighborhood, people spit on his father for having a bumper sticker supporting the troops. Whats up with that? I dont think liberals in Minnesota are against supporting the troops nowadays.
BK: Maybe it isn't as clear as it could be, but I just thought it was a little hint about the communities I grew up around. Neighborhoods in South Minneapolis are very liberal neighborhoods. Theyre very left-leaning culturally. If I saw a car like that in my dad's neighborhood right now--to the extent it was plastered with those stickers--it would seem odd.
ZLJ: I dont think they'd be spitting on it because they dont support the troops but because many people who have Support the Troops stickers represent right wing politics.
DP: Zoe, had you been to Minneapolis before?.
ZLJ: I had been there once before for a film festival, and I loved it. And I loved it even more this time.
DP: Sam, your scene in Breaking Upwards, when you're listing STDs at a party at an art museum, was that improvised?
ZLJ: Yep, that was improvised.
SR: I was under the impression that that entire movie was going to be improvised, but then I later found out that on all the other days they were using a script.
ZLJ: Sam came in and we had been lazy with his character, but we knew that we could trust that he'd always have something funny to say.
DP: So you were a co-writer on that film but not on this film; so how did you work differently?
ZLJ: I'm definitely a control-freak. Not about the writing, because I also co-produced Breaking Upwards. As a producer, it was hard for me not to get really into things, like whether the continuity was working, and whatever. But it was a nice relief not wearing all those hats.
BK: In our rehearsal practice, she challenged us to make Rebecca more believable and we did some rewrites based on Zoe's feedback. That was a really important part of the process. It's good for a bunch of dudes to get a female perspective!


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