WRITING: RANDI BERGMAN
To a certain extent, we all like to think of our lives as a combination of our favourite film and television moments. Personally, I’m convinced that I’ll relive the same set of Sex and the City pleasures and pitfalls till the end of time. For Marlowe Granados, it’s the same, only multiplied by several iconic female-led narratives, from Party Girl to The Last Days of Disco. In her debut short film, The Leaving Party, she weaves together a contemporary yet timeless narrative – women talking relationships with their confidantes and closest friends – through the lens of the tales that came before. In one vignette, two friends argue the virtues of the dick pic. In another, predatory bosses are skewered over a session of day-drinking. “I’m interested in the way women are able to maneuver difficult or sensitive situations in their lives with humour and grace. It’s also about how women use conversation or ‘gossip’ to illuminate their world—protecting one another, commiserating, and eventually making each other laugh,” says Granados. The cast, an assembly of glamourpuss pals and budding actresses, wears these stories well.
Granados is a writer and cinephile who co-hosts The Mean Reds, a podcast focusing on women-led films romantic comedies with her first novel Happy Hour set to hit stands this fall with Canadian publisher Flying Books. Writing and directing her first film happened by chance. “The Leaving Party started because a friend of mine said she would produce something I made if I wrote a script for her. I wrote it the next day at a coffee shop over the course of four hours,” she says. “My work has always orbited film… maybe I’m undercutting myself, but I actually think I have a stronger understanding of film as opposed to literature. It’s just firmly ingrained in the way I perceive the world—even in the way I write fiction.”
Fans of old Hollywood will instantly recognize the film’s format as a take on the 1939 George Cukor classic, The Women, a film that famously featured zero male roles, despite the brazen tagline that read, “It’s all about men!” Here, Granados breaks down her various influences. Scroll down for the exclusive premiere of the film!
Women in fabulous clothes
“The aesthetic of the film is reminiscent of the nineties and early aughts with the colour palette. I was thinking about films like Party Girl and 200 Cigarettes. Costuming was a big part of that. Having these beautiful, intelligent women really put men to task was so funny to me, and it felt timeless. These themes have been talked about in women-led films since the beginning of cinema, we just had less academic ways of identifying them. This film in particular feels like it came from that lineage. As much as we want to portray women having their own stories apart from men, it’s just the truth that women don’t live in a vacuum away from capitalism and misogyny.”
“The costuming was key on this project. We didn’t have a budget, so I pulled a lot of my personal pieces, and of course had help from VSP. I also went over to the actor’s houses and put together looks out of their own clothes to make them feel a little more comfortable. I wanted everyone to have their own distinct style, but still look like they were part of the same milieu. There were a lot of bright colours and prints that gave scenes a certain lightness, even if the dialogue didn’t. The aesthetic firmly sets the tone. I love when Grace Jackson’s character is smoking a joint and reaming bad men out while wearing these huge pom pom earrings. The juxtaposition just sends me! I don’t think I can ever wear that pink D&G floral dress out in the world again, it really feels like this was its purpose.”
Women on the phone
“The point of each scene for me is that in all these films I love, whether it be screwball comedies or rom coms, the same setups kept reappearing. They almost became archetypes or markers for what kind of film it was. The more I watched, the more I felt I was identifying characteristics. The only thing I can succinctly compare it to is a meet-cute. We all know what that is. A woman on the phone talking to a could-be lover: My scene opens the film and you’re introduced to my character in the bath getting a phone call that she’s not looking forward to. In The Women, Joan Crawford gets a private line installed in her bathroom so she can talk to her lover. For most of the film Joan coos and coerces her suitors over the phone, and she can be very convincing. Meg Ryan in When Harry met Sally falls asleep on the phone watching Casablanca. Julia Roberts falls off a hotel bed in My Best Friend’s Wedding when said best friend says he’s engaged.”
Women tanning outside shooting the shit
“The two references for this were How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and Sex and the City. In How to, Kate Hudson and pals are tanning on what I believe to be their office’s roof eating Krispy Kremes trying to conspire together to figure out how to ruin Matthew McConaughey’s life. And in Sex and the City (season 3 episode 18), they’re on the roof of Samantha’s apartment in the Meatpacking District having a barbeque and talking about how fabulous they are.”
Women getting ready for a night out
“For some reason after we filmed this scene, it reminded me so much of those TV shows from the nineties like Blossom or Clarissa Explains It All. It also felt like it was almost on the edge of an outfit montage scene which I always appreciate. Even in Mistress America (a lone contemporary reference) when Greta Gerwig tries to find a pair of red pants in her friend’s room, and the entire time she’s complaining about her ex-friend and nemesis Mamie Claire who “stole my ideas, and my fiance.”
Women at the party
“Good party scenes are so difficult to achieve. John Hughes movies were always great at portraying house parties like in Sixteen Candles. The camera becomes another partygoer, it can freely roam and find small pockets of drama or humour. I love how extreme moods can coexist at parties and it all just adds to the fun of it. There’s a really good one in Noah Baumbach’s 1995 film Kicking and Screaming that opens the film where the camera just goes in and out of conversations at a graduation party. The Leaving Party, of course, HAD to end with a party – it’s like how all high school movies end with prom. The party scene was most informed by The Last Days of Disco and the sharp little tête-à-têtes Kate Beckinsale and Chloë Sevigny have at the thinly veiled Studio 54. The dancing at the very end was a bit of a heels off moment. I wanted to show that these women carry these pains and annoyances with them, but their grit is in how they can have fun and be carefree all the while.”
Watch Marlowe Granados’s The Leaving Party below!