Initially touted as the "lesbian-werewolf movie," Jack and Diane is a harrowing and artful illustration of forbidden romance. Written and directed by Bradley Rust Grey, the heartfelt story follows two damaged teenage girls (Juno Temple and Riley Keough) who fall in love in New York City. The Cronenberg-esque body horror drama was developed over the course of nine years.
Jack and Diane, which made its debut at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year and is currently in limited release, is one of the few films that focus on women falling in love with women.
Grey talked about his inspiration for the experimental feature, how he attempted to capture the lesbian experience, and how audiences have reacted to the film.
Jack and Diane combines various genres, such as animation. What films influenced you while developing the project?
I've always been a big fan of Happy Together (1997) by Wong Kar-wai, the way the love story is focused and the way the scenes are based on the emotional development of a love story. There's a film that's a little obscure called Providence (1977) by Alain Resnais and I think it's something that I had in my mind. When I watch that film, and I think there's a werewolf in it halfway through, up until that point I had no idea what was going on and as the film goes on, you find out that the characters are in this man's head. It just surprised me so much that that's just such an exciting way to be watching a movie and then right in the middle -- you get this sort of different element that's really unexpected. I supposed that could have been in the back of my mind when I came up with the idea that there could be a creature (in Jack and Diane). I'm a big fan of magical realism and Julio Cortázar, so his work and his sense of bringing in different elements to a story was something that was a big influence.
What inspired you to make a film about the lesbian experience in New York?
I had written a film about two male characters, one who was gay and one who was straight, as a short film when I was in school. That film was more about someone having a sexual experience that he wasn't expecting with a friend and wondering if that made him gay. Right after I did that story, I moved to New York with my wife (director So Yong Kim). I was in the East Village and I met two girls. They looked exactly like the characters from my short film. I couldn't help myself so I stopped them and talked to them. My wife and I were just embarking on making are first films and we were primarily thinking of working with non-actors, so I thought they'd be a good subject for a film. I left to make a film in Iceland and when I finished, three years had gone by. This was in the days before email and when I called them their numbers had changed and I was never able to get in touch with them.
So I wrote the film thinking about what their story might have been.
Have they seen the film, do you think?
I have no idea. I've always had the hope.
How did you work to accurately capture a romantic relationship with two women?
I just wanted to right a love story about two girls. They're younger than I am and it's sort of a different generation than I had. My impression is that it's not as much of a big deal (to come out) as it was when I was their age and that it might have been a big deal to tell your parents. What I wanted to do was show a young couple falling in love that's not about coming out. By not making a film about coming out and making it an issue -- in a way I was hopefully saying that that's not something that these girls are thinking about.
It seems that films about the gay experience typically focus on men falling in love rather than two women falling in love.
I'm not sure why.
Since your film is one of the few that do so, what were you trying to contribute to films about romances between women?
A lot of the women I talked to (in preparation for the film) were excited about the fact that the film wasn't a coming out film.
Where you inspired by previous films dealing with the same subject matter, such as My Summer of Love (2004) or Pariah (2011)?
When there's a film that's close to the subject matter I'm dealing with, I don't watch it because I'd rather make my film and see others like it afterwards.
What have you noticed about people's reaction to the film? What have people enjoyed about it and what have people had issues with?
I've only seen (the reaction to the film) in two different settings. The first was the Tribeca Film Festival and the other was the Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland. In New York, people thought it was a horror movie and I think that if that's all you wanted then it might not have given you enough of that. After the film screened in Locarno, there was a girl that said that she didn't really like the film when it started but that by the time it ended, she thought it was a masterpiece. It was so nice to hear that she warned up to it. I was told Switzerland is a very Catholic country and that I should be pre-warned because they have had issues with gay and lesbian films in the past. Most of the people were totally fine during the movie until the creature came out in the middle of the film. All of a sudden about 100 people walked out, really loudly. It was like the plague had hit.
That can be interpreted as a compliment at European film festivals.
It was a beautiful theater and the audience consisted of about 1000, so it wasn't a big deal to lose 100 people. I think it's part of what you're trying to do. You're trying to capture the same range of emotions that a person goes through when people fall in love. It's sweet and it's exhilarating but at the same time, it's terrifying. So you can't please everybody.