Tribeca: Angus MacLachlan Directs Paul Schneider, Anna Camp, Heather Graham in 'Goodbye to All That'
Goodbye to All That not only follows Paul Schneider as he examines his relationships with the flawed and blonde women of his life -- played by Heather Graham, Anna Camp, Ashley Hinshaw, Heather Lawless and Melanie Lynskey, among others -- but it also marks the directorial debut of Junebug scribe, Angus MacLachlan.
"One of the most satisfying things though was finally getting to implement my ideas and not have someone else do it," MacLachlan told The Hollywood Reporter at the film's world premiere at the SVA Theatre on Thursday, as part of the Tribeca Film Festival. He initially offered the project to Junebug director Phil Morrison, who then suggested the screenwriter take a stab at filmmaking, especially since the subject matter had roots close to home. "A lot of the film is incidents that happened to very good friends of mine," he explained of the psychotherapist (Celia Weston) who delivers the divorce news to inattentive husband Otto Wall (Schneider), as well as a memorable date night with a manic-depressive Debbie Spangler, played by Camp.
Schneider joked after the screening that playing Otto wasn't much of a stretch, not only because he too is as clumsy yet well-intentioned, but also because of MacLachlan's script and direction. "In his writing, there's something to grab onto; you don't have to make something out of nothing -- all the actors on this stage have been in situations where, every now and then, you have to put a silk hat on a pig, and this wasn't that situation. It was lovely to play the character, and then Angus' experience as an actor informed his directing in a really fantastic way. I know for myself -- and I think I can speak for my co-workers -- that it made the experience that much more personal." Weston added of shooting her scenes with MacLachlan, "It was a beautiful first day to see him become the director -- all of his instincts were so astute, so compassionate."
MacLachlan also told the audience that he was inspired by the 1978 film An Unmarried Woman and wanted to challenge a male character to raise his consciousness. "There's an underlying theme of really being seen and really being known," he explained. "This man is not really unsure, he's just unconscious … I wanted all the characters to feel flawed, and that the women that he sees are all acting out of their own volition and taking advantage of the other person, because people are that way."
He added that he positioned major plot points around text messages and Facebook use because "the cliche is that it makes it easy to connect to people, and yet a lot of people feel that it's not." He set the story in Salem to offer a regional account of the South that wasn't "ghettoized and gothic and kooky and weird." And he used Joseph Haydn's "witty Mozart"-like pieces to compose the score because "there was a certain kind of Buster Keaton quality about Otto … and I didn't want pop music in another indie film."
Members of the ensemble cast told THR that after wrapping the movie, they're personally taking with them a few relationship lessons. "The reason why, I think, they get the divorce in the film is because they're not paying attention to each other; he's not listening to her and really seeing her," Camp said on the red carpet. "If I take anything from this, it's to take the time to hear your partner, and if they have insecurities or wants they're not receiving, you have to discuss it."
"The movie is addressing the fact that, in this day and age, relationships are hard for everybody," said Schneider's sidekick Michael Chernus, who admitted that he was going through a breakup himself when shooting began. "When I read the script, it was a little too close to home, but it was reaffirming … Nothing lasts forever -- even if you stay married for the rest of your life, that relationship morphs and shifts."