Humorously providing a relatable view on an alternative lifestyle that’s often quickly judged by society is a challenge that not many filmmakers, particularly those who are making their feature film writing and directorial debuts, willing embrace. But up-and-coming married scribes-helmers, Lisa Addario and Joe Syracuse, intriguingly relied on their unique working experiences as they strived to achieve their Hollywood dreams, with their new comedy, ‘Amateur Night.’
The filmmakers cast spouses Jason Biggs and Jenny Mollen to bring their distinctive story to life in ‘Amateur Night.’ The comedy highlights the role reversal of women portraying characters who willingly work illegal and sordid jobs, and don’t experience the residual guilt that accompanies their duties. After witnessing the responsibilities that some people may consider to be depraved, Biggs’ character begins his own journey of soul searching, as he questions the way the women he encounters choose to lead their lives.
The movie is based on Syracuse’s experiences when he and Addario first moved to Los Angeles to pursue careers in filmmaking. ‘Amateur Night,’ which Cinedigm distributed in New York and Los Angeles theaters this pas weekend, showcases how a man who’s desperate for a job unknowingly agrees to drive prostitutes around the Southern California city. When he finally realizes that the women he’ll be driving are owners and operators of their own prostitution enterprises, and are in control of their schedules, clients and fees, comedic mayhem ensues. The women in the movie, which is set to theatrically expand nationwide, and also debut on VOD and Digital, on Friday, are the ones who are unapologetically in charge of the business, and are at peace with the lifestyle they have chosen to lead.
‘Amatuer Night’ follows Guy Carter (Biggs), an award-winning graduate student of architecture. He has a beautiful wife, Anne (Mollen), who’s pregnant with their first child. However, he’s contending with feelings of self-doubt over whether he’ll be a good father, as he doesn’t have a job; he’s been trying to find work in his field for a year, without any luck.
At her wit’s end, Anne finds her husband a job as a driver on Craigslist. Guy, who shows up for the interview thinking he’ll be delivering pizzas, quickly realizes he’ll actually be driving prostitutes. With money too scarce to turn down, he decides to take the job. His first job involves driving the tough-as-nails, unapologetic Nikki (Janet Montgomery), and her two hilarious and foul-mouthed cohorts, Jaxi (Bria L. Murphy) and Fallon (Ashley Tisdale). As the women’s reluctant driver and protector, Guy experiences a wild and sordid night, during which time he proves to Nikki and himself that he does have what it takes to be the responsible father his family deserves.
Biggs and Mollen generously took the time recently to talk about co-starring in ‘Amatuer Night’ together during a phone interview amid the comedy’s Los Angeles press day. Among other things, the actor and actresses discussed how they were interested in playing the spouses in the film, as they both not only appreciated the story’s broad comedy, but also related to Guy and Anne’s matrimonial struggles. Biggs and Mollen also mentioned how Syracuse and Addario’s script isn’t as scandalous as film audiences may initially expect, as the actors feel the filmmakers’ story and characters were created from a place in their hearts.
The conversation started with Biggs explaining that he had become attached to star in ‘Amateur Night; before Mollen did. “I got involved through the standard route. My agent sent me the script, and I really liked it,” the actor revealed. “I thought it was a smart comedy. It’s also broad in some of its comedy, but it’s played in a very real human way. I thought it was a real fish out of water story, and I like doing those roles. I think they have a lot of potential.”
When the actor met and spoke with Addario and Syracuse, “I became even more intrigued by the film. They then started asking me about Jenny, because they’re really big fans of her work,” Biggs said. “They also thought there were some real similarities between them as a couple and us as a couple, which I find to be true. So they asked me if I would be interested in having Jenny play my wife in the film.”
Mollen then chimed in on how she became involved in playing Anne in ‘Amateur Night,’ saying that Biggs approached her with the prospect of playing his character’s wife in the film. The actor told her, “There’s this movie I’m going to do, and they want you to play my wife.” The actress then revealed that she thought it was going to be a small role, in which she only “ordered a Frappuccino in the background of a scene that Jason’s in with a much bigger actor.
“So I said, ‘No, I don’t need to do that. I’m in a different place in my life, and have my own sh*t going on.’ So I was offended by the idea. But then I read the script and thought, they’re really talented.” Mollen added that she felt Anne “is a funny character, and I couldn’t believe what a pivotal role it was. We also just had a baby, so there were also so many parallels between us and the characters. So it made sense for me to take it on.”
The actress then began discussing her experiences of also working with Addario and Syracuse. “I think it’s hard for me as a writer to be involved in anything, and not want to contribute to the writing of it. I’m not a director, so that doesn’t really come into play as much. But when I see material, I want to infuse it with my voice,” Mollen explained. “Luckily, Lisa and Joey were very receptive to allowing us to have some of those freedoms.”
Further exploring the details of those creative freedoms, the actress added that “Jason did a lot of improv, especially when he was filming his phone scenes. Between the two of us, there was also a lot improv, which added to the realism of our scenes. Obviously, since Jason and I are married, we have a lot of shorthand that feels right to us. We explored the things that we use in real life,” such as the sentimental nicknames they call each other. Those expressions “are so specific that even the best writer wouldn’t know those things, unless they were living with us. So it was great to be able to improvise in those instances.”
With all of the realistic and relatable situations that Guy and Anne expressed throughout the comedy, Biggs noted that he was able to understand “the general anxieties they’re experiencing. They’re about to have their first kid, and we had just had our (first) son a few months prior” to when they began filming. “So I could very much feel that pre-birth anxiety. You don’t know when and how the birth is going to happen, if everything’s going to be okay and if you’re going to be able to provide for them.”
Biggs added that those doubts never go away, even after a child is born, and he still has concerns. “Once you have your kid, those anxieties don’t go away. I actually find that they become more intense, because you have a family to take care of,” the actor revealed. “Our situation wasn’t exactly the same as Guy and Anne’s, as far as their work and financial situation. We’ve always had insurance, for example.”
But the actor also noted that “there’s something about my profession that can also be anxiety-inducing, as you don’t know when and where your next job is going to come from. There’s definitely an inconsistency, which is amplified when you have a kid who you have to take care of.”
Another relationship aspect about their characters that Biggs said he and Mollen could relate to as a married couple is that Guy is initially apprehensive about driving prostitutes, but Anne encourages him to keep the job. “You don’t see that too often in narrative storytelling. But in real life, you’re more likely to encounter a wife who says, ‘You should go do it. Who cares who you’re driving?’ But the husband is a bit more reluctant, and that’s certainly true to Jenny and me,” the actor explained.
Mollen concluded the interview by adding that she thinks that role reversal elevates the story, and was the right choice for Guy and Anne. She also acknowledged that film audiences may initially be hesitant to watch ‘Amateur Night,’ due to the seemingly risqué job Guy takes on to provide for his family. “But when you hear Joey and Lisa tell their story, you realize it’s such a comedy of errors. Nothing about them is ever that scandalous or edgy, as everything’s coming from a place of the heart,” the actress divulged. “I love that aspect about them. That’s why it was so easy to fall in love with them, not only as people, but also as writers, and get on board with their story.”
Watch the official trailer for ‘Amateur Night’ below.
Written by: Karen Benardello