Diablo Cody – Ricki and the Flash

August 14, 2015 by  
Filed under Interviews

She may have won an Oscar in 2007 for her teenage pregnancy comedy “Juno,” but screenwriter Diablo Cody says she’s definitely not the same kind of writer she was eight years ago. There’s more pressure on her now that writing scripts has evolved from a fun hobby to a real, honest-to-blog job. In her newest film, “Ricki and the Flash,” Cody found inspiration for the title character in her own mother-in-law Terry Cieri, the leader of a New Jersey-based rock ‘n’ roll band called Silk and Steel. Actress Meryl Streep plays Ricki, a lifelong musician who walked out on her family years ago to pursue fame, but never found it. The estranged mother returns when her ex-husband (Kevin Kline) calls and asks her to spend some time with her daughter (Mamie Gummer, Streep’s real-life daughter) who is suffering from depression.

During an interview with me, Cody, 37, talked about the idea of fame and if she’d like more of it, and what it was like to rock out with Streep on the set of “Ricki and the Flash.”

Tell me about your mother-in-law and how she became the inspiration for “Ricki and the Flash.”

I met my husband’s mom a few years ago when I was meeting the whole family. I was so blown away that she was the lead singer of this rock band. She was a grandmother, but she was still getting out on stage every weekend playing the electric guitar and rocking the house. I thought this would be a fascinating jumping off point for a film.

What is her band called?

They’re called Silk and Steel. They play on the Jersey Shore. There in Seaside Heights, New Jersey.

Do you get a chance to see them perform at all?

Absolutely. I’m a huge fan of the band. I don’t get out as much as I’d like to because I have really little kids, but I’m definitely a fan.

Have you ever had conversations with her about her idea of fame and if she ever wanted to make it big?

You know, I think every musician hopes to have wider recognition. We have talked about that. At the same time, what I really admire about her is that even though she is not famous, she is still doing it every weekend just for the love of it. To me that’s true artistry.

What about you as a screenwriter – where does fame come in? Would you like to be more famous than you already are?

No, I actually think it’s sort of astonishing that I have any kind of public presence. Most screenwriters don’t. Just the fact that I’m asked to help promote the movie is enough exposure for me. Most writers are introverts. I’m one as well.

Did you write the lead characters specifically for Meryl Streep and Mamie Gummer?

It wasn’t specifically written for them, but as I was writing the script, I couldn’t help but think, “You know, Meryl Streep would be perfect for this.” But I didn’t allow myself to believe she would do it because it seemed like such a long shot. When she agreed to do it, I was so happy. And Mamie Gummer is so talented. To be able to take that dynamic between the two of them and put it on screen was really a gift.

I don’t think there are many screenwriters out there who could think, “Meryl Streep would be perfect for this,” and actually have a shot at getting her for the part.

Hey, I didn’t think I had a chance either. I’m still in shock.

Looking back to a film like “Juno,” do you ever feel like people think of you as a specific kind of screenwriter? I mean, I think some people will be surprised to know you wrote “Ricki and the Flash.”

I think when you write something like “Juno” that’s a huge hit and has a really distinctive tone to it, people are going to assume that’s the way you’re going to work from now on. But the fact of the matter is, I wrote “Juno” 10 years ago and I definitely have other concerns in my mind right now. I’m older and I’m a mom. I do think that as I’ve matured maybe my writing voice has matured. I would still write another movie like “Juno,” but I want to try different things, too.

Has your writing process changed over these last 10 years or do you confront a new script the same way?

No, and I kind of wish that I could. It’s funny how things change when your hobby becomes the way you support yourself. At the time I wrote “Juno,” writing was just fun. It wasn’t my day job. It was just something that I did at night. The process was very free. I had nothing to lose, whereas now, I feel more under pressure as a writer. (Laughs) I am definitely writing in a different kind of space.

Were you able to rock out a little with Meryl when you were on set?

Yeah, I’m actually in the movie briefly dancing in front of the stage while her band is rocking out. That was a pretty cool moment. It made me think, “What a weird life I have.” I’m a big fan of The Flash, I’ll put it that way.

Wait, is that you in that one scene where the woman is dancing by herself?

That’s me!

Well, you have some pretty good moves, Diablo.

(Laughs) I do not have good moves, but that’s sweet of you to say.

Young Adult

January 1, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Charlize Theron, Patrick Wilson, Patton Oswalt
Directed by: Jason Reitman (“Up in the Air”)
Written by: Diablo Cody (“Juno”)

It’s taken screenwriter Diablo Cody (Showtime’s “United States of Tara”) a few years to get the memo, but in her latest film, “Young Adult,” it looks as if she’s started paying attention to some of the constructive criticism aimed straight at her hipster heart. Besides cutting back a bit on the forced pop-culture references, Cody seems to have also put the reigns on the gimmicky prose that marked her fresh albeit frustrating pro-choice dark comedy “Juno” back in 2007. She really has! Honest to blog!

Despite my own “Juno”-related cynicism, I still found the Academy Award winner a sweet coming-of-age story that would probably brighten my day if I came across it on cable. The extreme likeability of Ellen Page (“Inception”) in the title role overcame the overly smarty-pants dialogue. With “Young Adult,” however, Cody and director Jason Reitman (“Up in the Air”), who reunite for the first time since the prego indie, don’t have that same advantage. Instead, Cody challenges both herself (and her audience) with a movie character as attractive on the inside as Michael Cera showing off his pasty chicken thighs in flimsy running shorts. It’s not an easy task, but with some surprisingly refined writing, Cody proves in possession of more creativity and humor than her phony pen name would lead you to believe. (That is, of course, provided you disregard her misguided foray into the horror genre with “Jennifer’s Body” as just a bad dream.)

In “Young Adult,” Oscar-winner Charlize Theron (“Monster”) stars as Mavis Gary, the kind of emotionally detached individual who doesn’t swoon over babies or cry over breakups. Author of a young-adult book series (think “Twilight Saga” scribe Stephenie Meyer without the vamps), Mavis subsists on Diet Coke breakfasts and promiscuous sex inside her filthy bachelorette pad. She spends her time watching trashy reality TV and living vicariously through the naive teenie boppers she writes about inside the pages of her paperbacks.

Having never really matured past her high school years where she was both lauded as a queen bee and loathed as a “psychotic prom-queen bitch,” Mavis enters into a delusional state of grandeur when she is included in a mass email from her ex-boyfriend Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson) about the birth of his new baby. Instead of simply hitting “reply” and offering congratulations, Mavis misreads the message from Buddy as a call for help and decides to pack up and pay him a visit back in her small hometown of Mercury, Minnesota. There, the cold, calculating and materialistic Mavis forms an unlikely acquaintance with Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt), a dweeby former high school classmate she hardly remembers despite the fact his locker was right next to hers. As Matt, Oswalt gives a sincere and grounded performance much like he does in the lead role of 2007’s scarcely-seen dark comedy “Big Fan.”

“Buddy Slade has a life,” Matt says trying to dissuade Mavis from wrecking Buddy’s happy marriage. In that, he’s also suggesting that Mavis needs to get a life of her own, too. There is no epiphany or happy ending in “Young Adult.” Theron embraces her lack of congeniality with a remarkable combination of resentment, hostility, and self-hatred that is both uncomfortable and compelling, especially when the end result is such a colossal train wreck.

Jennifer’s Body

September 24, 2009 by  
Filed under CineStrays

Starring: Megan Fox, Amanda Seyfried, Johnny Simmons
Directed by: Karyn Kusama (“Aeon Flux”)
Written by: Diablo Cody (“Juno”)

Actress Megan Fox may be drop dead gorgeous, but there’s nothing pretty about “Jennifer’s Body.” The film is screenwriter Diablo Cody’s first script since winning the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for 2007’s slightly overrated “Juno.” (I still highly recommend “Juno,” but some of its pretentious dialogue bothers the hell out of me…”Honest to blog.”) Anyway, in “Body,” Cody and director Karyn Kusama (“Aeon Flux”) spew out as much unoriginality as the demon-possessed Fox does prickly, black vomit. It’s going for campy, but there’s really nothing too hilarious or scary to make it memorable. When a lesbian kiss between Fox and Amanda Seyfried is the only thing luring boys to the movie, you know you have yourself a guilty pleasure that’ll only be worth a few seconds on YouTube once the buzz dies down.