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Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd may be the two marquee names anchoring David Wain’s romantic-comedy parody They Came Together, but there’s a third star: New York. In fact, you might even say, as many directors of movies shot in the Big Apple have, that New York is another character.
And that’s exactly what Rudd’s and Poehler’s characters say in They Came Together and Wain explained with mock sincerity (to a chorus of laughs) to a packed theater ahead of the BAMcinemaFest premiere of his film in Brooklyn Monday night.
That over-emphasis on the setting of New York is just one of the many storytelling approaches that They Came Together lampoons. The basic setup seems to be largely taken from You’ve Got Mail, with books replaced by candy, as Poehler plays the owner of a small candy shop whose store is being threatened by Rudd’s candy conglomerate, which is building a megastore nearby. But Wain told The Hollywood Reporter that he also drew on other Manhattan-based titles, or “All the obvious New York, Upper West Side-y, all the Nora Ephron, all the Nancy Meyers, all the Woody Allen, all of them.”
But the director also stressed that while he and co-screenwriter Michael Showalter wanted to spoof romantic comedies, their focus was larger than just that area.
“Part of our goal was not to focus on referencing specific movies as targets of satire, but more the genre in general and storytelling or movie telling in general, because we don’t want it to be something that’s dated next year,” Wain said.
Still, co-star Ellie Kemper, who plays one half of a married couple listening to the rom-com story of how Poehler’s and Rudd’s characters met, particularly liked mocking how much the characters in the Manhattan-set stories they were making fun of really love New York.
“One funny thing, I think, is how high on New York all these New Yorkers are,” Kemper said. “So we had a lot of fun improvising lines … of how great New York is, like, ‘Oh, I took the subway this morning, and I had a bagel and, oh my gosh, Zabar’s, Zabar’s, Zabar’s …’”
Kemper said she also appreciated the post-conversation regretful “shit” comments that many characters make, tapping into “should’ve said” moments.
Poehler, who said she felt the film was more of “an homage to romantic comedies,” added that she enjoyed playing the cute leading lady.
“I had a lot of fun with playing the kind of quirky, klutzy girl,” she said. “She’s really caring, and she runs a candy shop, and she doesn’t charge anybody.”
For Rudd, though, he said he enjoyed making light of all of the romantic comedy cliches that he may have been a part of, having starred in a few rom-coms himself.
“It seems like I’ve played a version of this in movies that were not mocking it,” Rudd told THR. “The trick was, I was just going to play it as seriously as I could and hopefully blow it up a little bit without biting the hand that feeds me.”
At the post-screening Q&A, Rudd showed that he still had a soft spot for one of his past rom-coms, pretending to storm off after someone asked whether parts of the film were inspired by Clueless. After throwing down his microphone and stomping away, Rudd returned to the stage after Wain plaintively cried out, “Josh, Josh,” the same way Alicia Silverstone’s Cher Horowitz did.
It was one of many humorous moments in the Q&A with Rudd, Wain, Poehler, Kemper and co-star Jason Mantzoukas.
Another occurred when Wain needed a drink of water and both Rudd and Poehler offered him water bottles, with Rudd later taking the one that Wain drank from and sipping from it only to do a spit-take when Wain, in response to another question, claimed that Rudd and Poehler weren’t his first choice.
“Amy and Paul said, ‘Can we be in it?’ And I said, ‘No, you’re mid-level. When you get to the top of the A-list, then we can talk about it,'” Wain joked. “When they got there they called and said, ‘Here we are.'”
A post-screening party sponsored by Black Velvet was held at Brooklyn’s No. 7.
They Came Together will be released in select theaters and on demand on Friday. Watch the trailer below.
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