Despite how we identify or what we believe, we all crave the same fundamental things – acceptance, security, happiness, and to feel like we matter or belong. Brilliant filmmaking isn’t about special effects or statements, it’s about making that connection. It’s about taking the viewer on a wondrous journey that leaves them just as affected and changed as the main character. It’s about being fearless and real.
This Friday, August 7, Spinster, a thought-provoking and thoroughly entertaining feature film that was written by Jennifer Deyell and directed by Andrea Dorfman and stars Chelsea Peretti (Brooklyn Nine-Nine) will be released on VOD and digital platforms (iTunes, Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, Fandango Now and all major cable/satellite platforms). The movie is timely and honest and filled with genuine moments of heartwarming joy. It could almost be described as the feel-good movie of the summer, just not in the traditional Hollywood sense as the “happy ending” might not be what is expected.
Spinster is the fourth feature film that Andrea Dorfman has made. In the past, Andrea has not been one to shy away from sensitive or even taboo subject matter in her quest to tell a compelling story. This film, however, tackles material that is much more universal. Spinster is about a woman who is navigating life and finding purpose as she moves into her 40s. The story follows Gaby (played by Chelsea Peretti), who, after being dumped, realizes that all of her friends are not only married, but they’ve started families as well. She begins to feel like life has already passed her by and she worries that she is too old to still have dreams.
When Andrea was in her 30s, it seemed like all of her friends were getting married and having kids. One day, she was feeling really depressed about not having found her someone yet and a good friend asked, “What if you never meet anybody?”
“That made me think,” Andrea recalled. “Does it mean my life is going to end? I think a lot of people feel like that at that age. It’s a very specific time for women where it seems that everyone is scrambling. I’m sure it’s partly biological, a need to procreate and hook up, but if you’re not in that stream, you can end up feeling very countercultural.”
Entertaining Options asked Andrea if she thought social media, such as Instagram, played a role in putting pressure on women either to be single or to be in a relationship.
“I don’t think Instagram puts a lot of pressure on women to be single or to be in a relationship,” she answered. “I think it puts a lot of pressure on people to be happy or to appear to be happy. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing. You could be burning in Hell and you’re still going to take a selfie of yourself looking amazing.”
That urgency to find someone became the kernel that Andrea and Jennifer started exploring six years ago. Though the project began as a co-writing experience, it eventually made more sense that Jennifer focused on the writing while Andrea took on the roles of story editor and director.
“Jennifer and I work on scenes together and outline them,” Andrea explained. “Then, Jennifer goes off and does her thing as the main writer and I don’t touch that, that’s all her. By the time I get it as the story editor, it’s really fully conceived. I look at it to see what’s reading and what’s making sense emotionally, but maybe isn’t quite working. After that, we get back together and meet up with a bunch of notes.”
“We’ve worked for years together so we have a really natural way of creating because we know each other so well,” she continued. “I think for people who write together and are creative collaborators, it really helps if you know each other well so the ego doesn’t get as involved and you don’t have to be so careful around each other. That’s why I think certain relationships are better at it than others. You hear about a lot of husband and wife writing teams or sibling writing teams and I get it because with a co-writer, you have to know how to defend yourself and how to fight and how to give things up and how to not get so clingy to the creation.”
At some point, the story takes on a life of its own and both Andrea and Jennifer relinquish ownership, in a way. “It becomes something onto itself rather than something that is mine or hers.”
The success of Spinster depends on the viewer becoming emotionally invested in Gaby. Gaby has her flaws and her take on life may be a little immature for a woman of her age. However, the viewer needs reasons to care so they will give Gaby a chance, get to know her, and hang with her long enough to understand why she’s at this crossroads in life. Only after that can the audience feel triumphant as she grows.
The storytelling plays a huge role in making Gaby so endearing and real. She is not sure what she wants. She doesn’t set a goal and pursue it with dogged determination, Gaby is on a journey and she doesn’t always travel down the right path. The viewer gets to experience Gaby finding her way on a unique path that she discovers for herself. This gives the film a beautiful undercurrent of wonder.
“I think we’re sold this idea that there is a way to be that discounts the journey that each of us is on to discover the life that makes the most sense to us as individuals,” Andrea commented. “When there’s an idea of how we are supposed to be, that can’t come with anything in my mind but ambivalence. We wanted to present another possible path.”
The other key to making us care about Gaby is Chelsea Peretti. While she is an incredible talent, most do not know her for playing a self-reflective character who shows restraint and experiences uncertainty. What seemed like a bold choice for the lead to Entertaining Options was an obvious choice for Andrea and Jennifer.
Andrea first saw Chelsea in her unforgettable role on FX’s Louie.
“That performance was nothing like Gina in Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Then, I saw her do her stand-up special for Netflix and I loved it. Up until that point, I hadn’t even seen Brooklyn Nine-Nine, so when we were brainstorming about women who could play a character in their late 30s, I watched Brooklyn Nine-Nine. That character was something completely separate from what I was initially drawn to Chelsea for, so I already knew she could do a more subtle performance. And that’s what she gave us. She was amazing.”
What made the experience even more enjoyable was Chelsea, herself.
“She came all the way from LA to Nova Scotia. I don’t know if you know where Halifax is, but you couldn’t be farther and yet be on the same continent. She came all the way out here to be the lead in a low budget feature film with people whom she had never heard of or met in a place that she’d never been and she brought her A game. She was completely into it. Chelsea embraced the role of the film, the situation, all of it. Jennifer is brilliant at dialogue, but every actor needs to allow those words to make sense in their own mouth and Chelsea certainly did that. She brought a lot to the character and to the writing.”
One of the most powerful and heartfelt relationships in the film happens between Gaby and her niece, Adele. Adele is played by Nadia Tonen, a remarkable young actress who is a natural-born scene-stealer (in all the best ways). The two are somewhat forced to grow closer when Gaby reluctantly agrees to watch Adele so her divorced brother can pursue his dream in stand-up comedy. Gaby and Adele forge a deep bond that satisfies a need that neither seemed to realize they had. By the time the film was done shooting, a real life relationship had also developed between Chelsea and Nadia. On the emotional last day of shooting, Nadia gave Chelsea a gift and a number of tears were shed.
On the surface, Spinster might seem like it’s a creative take on a romantic comedy, but beneath all the warmth and good vibes there is a depth which contains an important subtext. After reaching a certain age, women are overlooked, especially in the entertainment business. This is most evident in films where the leading characters are supposed to be the same age, yet there’s a large difference when casting the roles. Men can still play leading roles well into their 50s and beyond, but an older female role may often be played by an actress who is much younger than the character.
When asked if there was anything she wanted to say in closing, Andrea pointed out, “The writer, the director, the cinematographer, the story, it’s all women – which is becoming less and less unusual, but it is certainly notable still. It was an amazing part of the process. I don’t know if this particular story would’ve been told had women not come up with the idea.”
Spinster was written by Jennifer Deyell, directed by Andrea Dorfman, and it stars Chelsea Peretti. The film will be released on Friday, August 7 on VOD and digital platforms (iTunes, Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, Fandango Now and all major cable/satellite platforms).
Fore more information on Andrea Dorfman, visit www.andreadorhman.com.
Featured image: Jonathan Watton as Will and Chelsea Peretti as Gaby in “Spinster.” © 2019 SEA GREEN PICTURES INC – Corey Isenor