Lake Bell – I Do…Until I Don’t

September 5, 2017 by  
Filed under Interviews

In “I Do…Until I Don’t,” actress/writer/director Lake Bell introduces audiences to three couples as they maneuver their way through their messy and complex relationships in an attempt to find happiness.

Along with writing and directing the second film of her career (her 2013 comedy “In a World…” was a gem), Bell also stars as Alice, a woman who is struggling alongside her husband Noah (Ed Helms) to keep their small business afloat and trying to decide if having a baby is a good decision. All three couples’ lives are placed center stage when a jaded filmmaker asks them to participate in her documentary about marriage and the notion that all unions should be capped by a seven-year contract.

During an interview with me last week, Bell, 38, talked about the idea behind her script, why marriage is so hard, yet so worth it, and shares the best marriage advice she’s ever received.

Talk about the idea behind this script of the seven-year marriage contract. I’m assuming it’s playing off the idea of the seven-year itch.

The idea came from a German politician named Gabriele Pauli who proposed to her government that marriage was basically archaic and that we would be better suited socially to alter it to a seven-year contract. I’ve been married for four years, but have been with my husband for seven. There something about getting over the hump and push through the muddy, messy times. It’s so hard, but when you choose not to bail on each other, that’s where real evolution and growth happens in a relationship. The privilege of aging and evolving with someone is having the benefit of someone calling you out and vice versa. That was kind of the subject matter I wanted to investigate.

So, I’ve been married for eight years and have two kids. Are you telling me I don’t have to worry about any more mud?

(Laughs) Hey, I get it. I’m four years in and have two kids. I am with you, brother. I know that it’s hard and that shit can get real. That’s why this movie is so deeply personal to me. We’re all dealing with a barrage of very negative stuff in the news. There is a lot of tension in the air that trickles down into our personal lives. Commitment, in general, is hard. I want to be an advocate for relationships. When the steeple burns down to ash, out of ash grows flowers. The same with shit. You’re going to have flowers grow out of it. It is your duty – pun intended – and honor to trudge through the mess and come out the other side.

You do realize, however, that even though you are already committed to your marriage, you’re doubling down by making a movie like this, yes?

I’m putting my money where my mouth is and I’m not even at the seven-year mark yet. I made this movie so that I could make sure that…Let’s just say I would be such an asshole if I bailed out. So, now I have to stick to my guns. I believe in the institution [of marriage]. I didn’t when I first started writing the movie. I had a very cynical and jaded view. Then, I met my now husband during the process of writing it. That’s why, ultimately, without giving away any spoilers, I want the world to know you should go into this movie with the intention of wanting to make out with your wife at the end of it.

That could be the case, but I could also see arguments coming out of this if you went to the movies with your spouse, no?

Maybe, but I hope that it’s more of a date-night movie. I hope people feel at the end that marriage counts for a lot. Your partner is the only other person who has a shared experience of what you have gone through. That history and framework and tapestry of your lives together can’t be just built. It takes so much love and energy to build a relationship like that. It is worth working for.

What’s the best advice you’ve received about making marriage last?

Therapy, especially if you’ve gone through all the trouble to have a family with someone and get in front of all your friends and all your family and get married and buy a house together and entrench yourself together. I think therapy and self-reflection and coupled reflection is super noble and worth it to everybody. (Laughs) The point is, and we are really getting into it here because I’m passionate about the subject, if you think bailing is the easier route, it’s not.

How much of directing and writing your own projects was the simple fact that you weren’t getting offered the roles you wanted and wanted to create your own material?

I feel very lucky that I’ve had an awesome career thus far. It was more about the experience of writing and creating something from nothing. It was just a profound and creative privilege. It’s something I enjoy and find really fulfilling. As an added bonus, yes, I feel like I can cast myself in roles that are perhaps not the obvious roles people would cast me in. Certainly, Alice is not the kind of character I would have gotten offered in the past. But I really felt she was a character I needed to accept, so I gave myself that opportunity.

In a World

August 30, 2013 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Lake Bell, Fred Melamed, Ken Marino
Directed by: Lake Bell (debut)
Written by: Lake Bell (debut)

Satirical comedy is such a challenging genre to write, which is why when someone actually gets a tight grasp around their ideas without having to strain too much to make it funny, said writer is due some credit.

So is the case with actress Lake Bell (“It’s Complicate”) and her directorial debut “In A World,” a creative and often witty film that starts off strong before pumping the breaks midway. Before its slow descent into a more ordinary narrative, however, Bell is able to introduce audiences to an intriguing world very few people get the chance to see. It’s a clever look into part of the entertainment industry that literally speaks for itself.

In “In a World,” Bell stars as Carol Solomon, a struggling vocal coach who gets a break in her career when she books a gig to do a voice-over for a movie trailer. It’s a close-knit industry her father Sam (Fred Melamad) and the real-life (and now deceased) Don LaFontaine have monopolized for years, but one that is looking for a fresh new voice to lead a new generation of professional narrators. Hoping to be that voice, she must find a way to prove to her father (and studio honchos) that a female voice can flourish in a business just as well as any man.

As a writer, Bell’s script is filled with crafty cynicism and a sweetness that fits in well with a story that really doesn’t try be offensive in any way. More often than not (especially in the first half), the subtle jokes hit their target and Bell and company deliver their lines with a sort of awkward charm. Actors including Ken Marino, Rob Corddry, and Nick Offerman (all of whom have worked with Bell on the TV series “Children’s Hospital”) add to the gawkiness of the roster and do it effortlessly. As Carol’s father, Melamed is perfectly cast as the bass-voiced legend that is fine with the way the good-old-boy industry works.

While the voiceover industry and the struggles Carol faces are the most interesting aspects of the film, Bell tosses in a secondary storyline that follows her sister’s marital problem, which doesn’t quite work in the grand scheme of things. The subplot is funny, but takes away from what should have been the real focus of the story. Still, Bell and her cast have some hilarious one-liners and there’s enough social commentary about the way cutthroat Hollywood works to keep the film from sputtering out completely in the final act.

Over Her Dead Body

February 1, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Eva Longoria Parker, Paul Rudd, Lake Bell
Directed by: Jeff Lowell (debut)
Written by: Jeff Lowell (“John Tucker Must Die”)

Remember the scene in 1990’s “Ghost” where Patrick Swayze keeps Whoopi Goldberg from going to sleep by singing “I’m Henry VIII, I Am” repeatedly while she tosses and turns in bed? Take that scene and stretch it over 95 minutes and you have yourself “Over Her Dead Body.” It’s just as annoying but not nearly as funny.

Taking a break from “Desperate Housewives,” Eva Longoria Parker (yes, she’s added Tony’s name to her moniker) stars as Kate, a blushing bride-to-be who is crushed to death by an ice sculpture on her wedding day.

Landing in some sort of limbo waiting room after she dies, Kate can’t shut her mouth long enough to get instructions from an angel as to what she has to do next. She decides for herself that her calling in the after-life is to protect her ex-fiancé Henry (Rudd) at all costs.

In solitude for the last year, Henry has no will to get over the tragedy despite his the constant – and mostly annoying – support from his sister Chole (Lindsay Slone), who wants him to find happiness again. To help out, she drags him to Ashley (Bell), a caterer and part-time psychic who hopes to communicate with Kate from the beyond and get her to give Henry her blessing to move on with his life.

Henry, of course, is unconvinced that Ashley can do anything for him. What he doesn’t know, however, is that his sister has given Ashley one of Kate’s old diaries, so she can con Henry into thinking she knows more about Kate than she really does. The plan backfires when Ashley and Henry begin to fall in love and, in turn, stir up jealous feelings from his corpse bride. Thinking she is there to save Henry from heartbreak, Kate decides to destroy his relationship with Ashley by dipping into her ghostly bag of tiresome tricks.

Playing like a supernatural novela, “Dead Body” is dead on arrival. Director/writer Jeff Lowell, who was responsible for the equally inferior “John Tucker Must Die” has no idea how to get passed the predictability of the story and dry performances by Longoria Parker and Bell. Their rivalry never becomes more than the equivalent of a girl-on-girl hair-pulling session in a middle school locker room.

Egos may be bruised a little with the critical potshots “Dead Body” will soon get, but fear not for Longoria Parker. If she can manage to stop drifting away from Wisteria Lane, maybe she can continue to hide the fact that her acting skills will never amount to more than catty antics.