By John Esther
What is a Sundance Film Festival without a Parker Posey movie? This year the unofficial Queen of Sundance starred in writer-director Ryan Shiraki's Spring Breakdown, about three women "holding on for one more day." At the festival, I caught up with Posey's co-star Jane Lynch, one of the funniest character actresses around; her previous credits include being part of Christopher Guest's ensemble -- Best in Show, For Your Consideration -- plus Role Models, The 40 Year Old Virgin and other scene-stealing roles.
The Spring Breakdown breakdown: Best buddies forever, Becky (Posey), Gayle (Amy Poehler) and Judi (Rachel Dratch) are three squares whom meet for "Make Your Own Pizza Night" to gripe about their lives. play a stupid "movies plus numbers" game, and plan for their "fun" annual trip. By day Becky works for a ball-brekaing boss, Senator "Kay Bee" Hartman (Lynch), Amy runs a dog camp, and Judi plans for her wedding to her gay fiancé (Saturday Night Live's Seth Meyers). Bookish Becky is sent to South Padre Island, Texas, to keep an eye on Ashley (Amber Tamblyn) the nerdy daughter of the Senator, during spring break, with Judi and Gayle tagging along.
For the most part an amusing movie performed by amusing women, and yet with no theatrical release to speak of, Spring Breakdown should see more life on DVD. (It arrives on disc this week.)
Lynch has also been doing some fine work on the small screen as of late, including the Starz Network's Party Down (about a catering company), and Fox's cheery new Glee. The film's director, former Saturday Night Live producer Shiraki, also chimed in on our conversation as we all drove together -- as will become abundantly clear at the end of the interview.
How has Sundance 2009 been for you?
Jane Lynch: It's been really fun. I've been busy promoting the film. The only way to do Sundance, really, is to be passionate about a movie you're involved with. It's going right to video so a lot of people wouldn't have seen it [on the big screen].
Do you know why it is going straight to DVD?
JL: I don't know the particulars except it's changed hands. Maybe it has to do with the fact that it's a female-driven comedy and they don't think there's any money to be made in that. It's as good as anything that's male driven.
Why do you think there's that perception, that a female-driven comedy cannot make money?
JL: It's crazy. It's stupid. It's small-minded. I know executives are always looking at the bottom line and perhaps the conclusion is that we can't make any money. But it's nuts, girls are loyal fans.
What marketing concerns did you have making this about women instead of men?
Ryan Shiraki: I really didn't think about the market when we were making it because I was like, "Who doesn't want to see this?" We knew what the market place was, but it wasn't like we were going to do something creatively just to reach a marketing point. Having worked at Saturday Night Live for a few years I knew how difficult it was with the female sketch players.
Considering some of the talent, it is surprising how none of the SNL female players have reached the status of many of the male players.
JL: I like Saturday Night Live now; the women are starting to come forward.
How did you get involved in Spring Breakdown?
JL: We hadn't met, but Ryan invited me. I got the script and then got the offer and I was like, "Oh, my god, let's make it work."
What do you have in common with your character, Senator Hartmann?
JL: Anything I have in a character that I bring to it is something in me. It's not something that dominates my character, but she certainly has some qualities I admire. She has a complete lack of shame. "This is who I am. I'm fabulous. Look how big I am. Look, I got a gun. I'm better than you. You're just a weak woman and I don't like weak women."
A female becoming U.S. Vice President would certainly have taken on a different meaning had the elections gone another way.
JL: I know. I don't think she's like Sarah Palin. My character is smarter and savvier than Sarah Palin will ever be in this life. The parallels there are funny, but Ryan came up with it first.
RS: The character was always a sort of an amalgam of many different female politicians. The biggest target was always (Texas Senator) Kay Bailey Hutchison. When I conceived her, I wanted bright suits and that hair to be a mile high.
So what were your own spring breaks like growing up?
JL: I had one spring break, during my junior year of high school. We went to Daytona Beach, Florida. There were about 13 girls. We split two hotel rooms. I got sunburned on the back of my legs the second day and it was so bad I was incapacitated the whole trip. My friends were pouring vinegar on my legs [Laughs]. How about you, Ryan?
RS: I used to go to New York City and do ecstasy. [Laughs].
What do you think about interviews where you talk about yourself and your work? Do they serve the work? Should the work speak for itself?
RS: A woman asked if the Seth Meyers character was homophobic. I said, "I am G-G-A-A-Y, gay." I was like, "Did you see the movie? The whole damn thing is gay."
JL: That's a really good question, John. There are some times during those interviews I am thinking, "What are earth could any of this be serving?" These guys are looking at us quasi-reverently, pretending to care what we're saying. It's kind of like what you're doing right now.
What? I was not even trying?
JL: [Laughs.] You're not actually even trying. You're good. Yet I wonder, "What does this serve?" People have magazines to sell and I understand that leads to people coming to see a movie, and awareness to it. I don't take it too deeply. I don't get too offended or too on my high-horse about "the importance of what we're talking about." Like Ryan said, "Our movie's like a tasty midnight snack."
RS: It's goes down easy.
JL: It reminds us that we all have an inner loser in us, a socially challenged person who doesn't feel part of the world. The movie takes that part of us and cuddles it and says, "It's okay, everybody's got it."
Now I'm getting really deep.
Okay, those are my questions.
JL: Then get out of the car! [Laughs].
RS: Push him out.
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