Talking John Waters, unstable relationships and girls who kick ass with darkly comic director Drew Tobia
See You Next Tuesday is a movie about a mentally unstable, very pregnant young woman named Mona. As Mona drifts further from reality, and thus closer to her mental breakdown, we watch as those close to her – namely her alcoholic mother and manic lesbian sister – get caught in her spiral. As the film’s website puts it, "See You Next Tuesday is a dark comedy the whole family can enjoy cutting themselves to.”
This Brooklyn-based indie is the debut feature film from director Drew Tobia. Provocative and quick-witted, the movie feels at home in the world of fringe, queer cinema – a descendant of peculiar creative minds like Todd Solondz or John Waters. I recently sat down with Tobia in New York to talk about divisive characters, girls who kick ass, and gay representation in film.
Why did you want to make a film about a pregnant girl?
Drew Tobia: Well, I was interested in taking a concept that would be considered “mainstream,” but making it subversive and weird, while also retaining some semblance of heart. I wanted to create weird characters that I pushed to moral and emotional limits, and then dare the audience to like them.
Watching it, one does grow really fond of Mona, despite the fact that she’s a train wreck and not necessarily making efforts to improve herself.
Drew Tobia: That’s partly why I cast Eleanore Pienta to play the role, because she just immensely charming, so she can get away with saying almost anything and people still like her. There are still going to be people who have a violent reaction to her character, but clearly this movie isn’t for those people. But I still love all the characters in the film, even though they do terrible things.
Do you think it’s accurate to put the film in the category of queer cinema?
Drew Tobia: I definitely feel there’s a queer sensibility to the film– not necessarily in the forefront, but more in the execution of the humor, which can be dry and sarcastic, like an obnoxious gay man – a.k.a. me! Honestly, I was a bit surprised when none of the gay festivals we submitted the movie to wanted to show it. The thing is, there are two lesbian characters in the movie, but they’re not exactly the protagonists, and they’re not always portrayed in a positive light – they’re not in a very stable relationship. But because they’re lesbians, some people took their volitile relationship as a comment on lesbian relationships in general. But it has nothing to do with being gay or not – most relationships are unstable!
“I’ve always loved movies about girls who kick ass. I actually think I’m discovering my inner vagina, because I only listen to female singer-songwriters from the '70s at the moment.” – Drew Tobia
I liked the fact that the movie normalises their gay relationship. It’s not glorifying anything about gay culture –the lesbians in the film are just as flawed or weird or boring as everyone else. I find it annoying that so often, especially in mainstream media, gay characters--their personalities and interests--are defined solely by their homosexuality.
Drew Tobia: I know, I hate that! Like, whose life experience is like that? I’m gay and I obviously love gay people, but I think it’s dangerous to define oneself as one single thing. It’s funny – following multiple screenings of See You Next Tuesday I was asked by audience members, “So, why were they lesbians?” And it’s like, “I don’t know, why wouldn’t they be lesbians? They’re just people. Also, I’ve been constantly asked “Why would you want to make a movie about women?” Of course, female filmmakers almost never get asked “Why did you want to make a movie about a man?” For some reason, making a movie about women is abnormal. When I began writing the script, I wasn’t setting out to make a movie about women or the female experience, because clearly I don’t know about that. But I’ve always loved movies about girls who kick ass. I loved the Fifth Element, I love Buffy, Enlightened was amazing. I actually think I’m discovering my inner vagina, because I only listen to female singer-songwriters from the '70s at the moment. It’s bizarre.
Watching SYNT I was reminded of the films of John Waters, partly because of the atypical characters, and also Todd Solondz, for its moments of bleakness...is it bad to us the word ‘bleak’?
Drew Tobia: Well, John Waters was a big influence of mine. When I was a kid I watched his movies on loop, especially Pink Flamingos. And I think you can use the word bleak, sure. Todd Solondz is amazing at capturing characters who are going through an extreme trauma, but portraying it in a way that’s both funny and heartfelt, and that was a big part of what I was trying to do with this film.