Awkward Social Constructs: A Few Minutes with Jeff Chan and Andrew Rhymer Talking About ‘Plus One’

Posted in Blu-Ray/DVD, Interviews, Movies by - August 05, 2019
Awkward Social Constructs: A Few Minutes with Jeff Chan and Andrew Rhymer Talking About ‘Plus One’

Those awkward social conventions are just rife for comedy…

In Plus One long-time friends Alice and Ben (Maya Erskine and Jack Quaid) find themselves in that inevitable year that all late 20-somethings experience—in which seemingly every person they know gets married—and agree to be one another’s plus ones as they power through an endless parade of insufferable weddings.

It’s a pitfall we’ve all found ourselves stuck in at one point in our life or another and Plus One really does manage to channel the hilarity of it all inside a very natural and realistically toned love story.

In advance of the film’s release on Blu-Ray and DVD and I got the unique pleasure to talk with writer/directors Andrew Rhymer and Jeff Chan who have now burst on to the scene as the brains behind this sweet little opus and we talked about the inspiration of the film, finding honest emotion in these awkward set ups, the stellar chemistry between the two leads and the importance of honesty in storytelling.

David Voigt: I really enjoyed Plus One, and I think that the thing that really stood out for me was that it felt really honest about the social bullshit of navigating the wedding situation when friends start to get married.  Can you talk a little about what the spark was for this story and telling it in this fashion?

Jeff Chan: Yeah totally, Andrew and I met at NYU film school and we would go on to meet so many other people some of whom are actually crew or cast members on this film.  Ultimately when we all graduated we were able to all stay in New York as this one big happy pile of friends who were all living together in apartments and hanging out all the time then suddenly when we all hit 26-27 years of age everyone just started to get engaged.

It was actually kind of a shocking moment that signified the end of that era with all of us together as this one big happy unit and makeshift family.  I think Andrew (Rhymer) and I were both thinking about it quite a bit but processing it in very different ways.  When we were at the precipice of our own wedding marathon we decided to use the script writing process as a form of therapy to work out our feelings about it all and to truly process what it all actually meant.  Andrew has been in a relationship for 14 years and I am currently single so we’re both really coming at it from different ends of the spectrum, however neither of us was in a real rush to ever get married.  This idea of ‘wedding’ and ‘marriage’ really just fell out of the sky and on our heads altering the idea of the friendships that we have, we had spent so much time talking about it all that we ultimately just turned it into a script.

There was one scene in particular that really summed up the entire movie for me when Alice and Ben encounter the hotel clerk who loves weddings but doesn’t have a girlfriend which just made me howl because while we’ve seen comedies in the wedding vein before that can on occasion get a little over the top and campy about it all, Plus One doesn’t do that.  How important was it for you both to have something that was very obviously funny, but naturally grounded at the same time?

Andrew Rhymer: Yeah it was very important to us, I think we we’re very self aware and self deprecating right from the outset of the entire process.

If you take the one sentence plot line of this movie, it’s very possible that you could get the wrong idea of what kind of movie this was going to be and you could dismiss it as something that you had seen before.  Two friends going to a bunch of weddings sounds like a bunch of things and I think that for us it was important to feel like it was an experience that was lived in, from the speeches to the small little beats…all of it.

While I certainly know that we didn’t have the budget to take these characters to 12 different weddings, conceptually we had no interest in doing that either.  We wanted it to be about the weird hotel clerk, or the argument you have in the rental car, the things we felt like were the things that stuck with us while hung over coming back from a wedding weekend.  We wanted it to play like it was Rosencrantz and Guildenstern witnessing a wedding (Laughs).  The experience of those attending a wedding is obviously very different from those people getting married.  You are remembering and focusing more on the weird conversation you had with the drunk guy rather than details of the ceremony.  That was a creative thing that we were driving for but also something that we felt would create the feeling of being a ‘guest’ at a wedding.

Can you talk a little about Maya and Jack and ultimately paring them together for this project because this really is the type of film where if the chemistry just isn’t spot on and working the movie could really drift off somewhere pretty mundane.

AR: Oh yeah totally!  Firstly, Maya and Jack both did go to NYU at around the same time as we did so we had some overlap there.  We have been friends with Maya for quite some time and been in two short films for us where she plays characters very similar to Alice so we knew she could play this part.  She’s really a wonderfully talented actor who can play it all and we knew that both the comedy and the drama elements in the story wouldn’t be hard for her.  Jack is someone who we had met a couple of times through various friends but were ultimately set up with through our casting director.  We knew he was talented but the second we started speaking to him we both knew that he could play this part and would bring something special to it because we had both been with the script for so long that we know the character Ben could be this very frustrating guy.  A chronically single guy who’s just very upset that he’s getting left behind and he’s got the problem of always looking for ‘perfect’ while the whole time realizing that the person he needs to be looking at is himself.  He really is someone who needs to change and we wanted to find someone who could play that character authentically.  Even when he’s being really frustrating he still ends up as this incredibly likeable human being

JC: Plus Jack is just this pathologically kind human being (laughs) and if there was every any kind of frustration with working with Jack is that we would occasionally have to work against his very nature  in order to get things done.

As you’ve said, both these characters are very lived in.  There are people we know, they are people that we’ve met, and they are people that we are.  As storytellers are these ultimately the kind of story that you both gravitate to or was it just a question of trying to do it as cheaply as you could?

JC: (Laughs) I think our next one may actually take place inside of a closet this certainly wasn’t the cheapest things we could have done! (Laughs)

AR: Yeah in every pre-production our producer would just say “Hey, we’ve got an idea!  What if it was four weddings instead of twelve?  And we’d always shoot it down…

But to answer your question, yeah and I mean in your first question you brought up honesty which I was so happy to hear because that really is the operative behind what we’re all about as storytellers and filmmakers.  We always want that lived in feeling that people can feel like they can relate to and isn’t manufactured.  Granted some of the stuff in the movie isn’t exactly the biggest problems in the world that anyone can face and we try to be self deprecating about that because obviously there are larger problems in the world then getting invited to too many weddings! (Laughs)  Are main goal really is to tell stories that make people feel a little less alone and a little more understood.

Plus One is available on DVD and Blu-Ray tomorrow and all major digital platforms right now.

This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like Examiner.com, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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