We talk to Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, writer and director of Netflix's new women-led film that might change the way you feel about breakups
Is it just me or are recently released romantic comedies starting to give us healthier portrayals of breakups?
I'm reminded of 500 Days of Summer - a happily never after romcom, yet still an all-time fave - where a severely smitten Tom's (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) world comes crashing down as hard as the plates he mindlessly broke during his emotional slump after his girlfriend Summer (Zooey Deschanel).
There was also Allie (Rachel McAdams) and Noah's (Ryan Gosling) breakup on The Notebook that had hopeless romantics hoping a little less than before because how could social class barriers and World War II come in between a love as great as theirs, right?
And then there was Nappily Ever After which saw Violet (Sanaa Lathan) get the big chop after she and long-term (attractive doctor with a British accent!) boyfriend Clint (Ricky Whittle) split.
While we all enjoy romcoms every now and then, especially the critically acclaimed ones, at times they give us rather one-dimensional narratives around breakups and moving on.
Toxic, devastating, they affect the protagonist's career negatively, and in cases where the woman calls it quits she's often vilified as a "cold, selfish [insert expletive]" just like Summer.
Of course, we've seen that breakups are never pleasant, but a lot of the time we've experienced fictional breakups through a male director's lens.
So after years of heteronormative romcoms with predictable endings, the new Netflix film Someone Great, written and directed by Jennifer Kaytin Robinson is a breath of fresh air.
We had a chat with Jennifer who is also the creator of MTV’s Sweet/Vicious, about what inspired this women-led stereotype-crushing movie starring Jane The Virgin's Gina Rodriguez who's also a producer for the movie, She's Gotta Have It's DeWanda Wise, and Pitch Perfect's Brittany Snow.
But first, a synopsis: Aspiring music journalist Jenny (Gina Rodriguez) has just landed her dream job at an iconic magazine and is about to move to San Francisco. Rather than do long distance, her boyfriend of nine years (Lakeith Stanfield) decides to call it quits. To nurse her broken heart, Jenny gathers up her two best friends Erin (DeWanda Wise) and Blair (Brittany Snow) for one outrageous last adventure in New York City. It's honestly a hilarious and heartfelt story of friendship, love, and what it means to let go of your twenties and enter adulthood... eek.
Back to Jennifer Kaytin Robinson.
For women by women
This writer-director is no stranger to creating work that centers women's voices. In 2016, she created the now cancelled MTV show Sweet/Vicious, which focused on sexual assault survivors and how they were taking their power back.
With Someone Great, it appears her creative mission was no different in terms of rewriting common narratives about women - a film in which she says "we put our hearts and souls into it."
Jennifer told us that making this Netflix film was therefore an "amazing journey and it was very rewarding, as it was a story [she and the cast] wanted to tell collectively."
When I ask why she chose to portray female friendship through Gina, DeWanda and Brittany in particular, Jennifer reassuringly responds that it was all about "finding women who are different who will also reflect the audience that [the movie] is for. It represents different women in the world."
She further expresses how there's "real genuine love" between the women both on and off screen, as she reveals that Gina and DeWanda studied at NYU together.
Speaking of university friendships, which many have found to be the ones that tend to be the most genuine and long-lasting, Jennifer gives us her experience of friendships between women in general, saying that "I was just writing about what I know and that's supportive friends - it's also what [other] women know."
On diversity and representation
At this juncture of the conversation, we were referring to the representation of women who work behind the scenes in the film industry - directors, producers and executive producers.
As mentioned before, we've consumed a high volume of films from the romcom genre that have told the same story over and over for decades. However, with more women now sitting in the director's seat, the scripts are flipping.
This is why Jennifer says "it was really amazing to tell stories that reach beyond what we've seen."
"I'm not the only one doing this - women are really driving storytelling and changing the landscape of [these kind of] stories," she adds.
This is why beyond romance and friendship, this is also a story of inclusivity that also goes beyond heterosexual partners, but tells a queer love story within too.
Without revealing any spoilers, I'll reference a point Lady Gaga once made about the fact that whenever she hits a career milestone, she goes through a breakup because men get overwhelmed by her success and feel small in the face of it.
For Jenny (Gina), her dream job meant relocating and that's what ultimately led to her breakup. Instead of turning down a good opportunity to stay in the same city as her partner, she takes it, and keeps her supportive friends.
Had this been 10 or even five years ago, we might have witnessed yet another women putting her career on the backburner for a man. Yes, I'm talking about The Devil Wears Prada lead character Andrea, who we're all still mad at for that decision.
And that's exactly what Someone Great's writer-director wanted to emphasise as she concludes our conversation by saying "choosing yourself and loving yourself - that is the greatest love story."
If you're staying in this weekend and you haven't already watched Someone Great on Netflix, do add it to your "must watch" list.
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