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The L: You cast twins Tilly and Maggie Hatcher as the sisters Jeannie and Lauren (which gives you a bit of value-added — they echo each other in some of their facial expressions). Is this another situation where you had a person you thought would carry a movie well?
AB: It's the same exact trick I pulled on the other films. I have known the girls for about ten years. Like everybody I was fascinated by twins, and particularly fascinated by these twins because I find them both so intensely charismatic, and not in exactly the same way. They're wildly charismatic apart, and then you put them together and they're a whole different thing.
The L: Jeannie is an interesting character — she can be hard to like at points, and I liked that.
AB: So much of the engine of the movie is the off-screen conflict with the Amanda character, and I liked the idea that the audience is going to be inclined to sympathize with Jeannie because she's our protagonist, but it was important to paint a portrait where you could begin to understand that Amanda's grievances have merit. That's another thing that not every audience is going to like, not knowing, or being uncertain. It would be one thing if Jeannie were the hero and Amanda were the bad guy and that were it, and I think there's also a way you can say, "This is a flawed character" and everybody gets that. And we're not really doing that either.
With Mutual Appreciation, this anecdote always leaps to mind. We played it at a film festival and I was eating breakfast one morning, and a guy came up to me. And he said, "I'm not supposed to be talking to you, I'm a juror, and I was wondering, could you tell me in the scene where Alan plays the rock shows — I don't know anything about pop music, is that supposed to be a great performance or a terrible performance?" And I couldn't answer the guy. It's just a performance. I don't have a particular agenda, if you think it's great or terrible. And yet I think people want to have their attention steered, and that's kind of the point of art in a way, but on the other hand, everybody brings their unique things to it. And maybe I get in trouble going too far down that path of allowing ambiguity.
The L: The anecdote reminds me of something Amy Taubin wrote about Beeswax: she saw it as partly about taste.
AB: Amy has been so good to my films. Obviously she didn't like the bright colors. I got where she was coming from and it made sense to me. It had nothing to do with my thinking about designing the film. I didn't think to myself, Let's make a movie about a store with horrible clothes in it. But by the same token, I get that we are using the brightness and poppiness of the store. It's not muted and tasteful colors. I don't think she's wrong, but that wasn't in my mind while making it.