'antibirth' is the gross-out, feminist slacker movie you need to see
'Orange Is the New Black' star Natasha Lyonne joins real life BFF Chloë Sevigny in 'Antibirth' — the psychedelic, feminist slacker movie of the year.
Antibirth stars Natasha Lyonne as Lou; a chain-smoking, drug-toking, self-destructive slacker who lives in a dilapidated trailer on the outskirts of town. When Lou falls unexpectedly pregnant, without the faintest idea how, her best friend Sadie (played by IRL best friend Chloë Sevigny) suggests she might want to take life a little bit easier. From there, the story unfolds into a disturbed, absurd, and terrifyingly real depiction of unplanned pregnancy (albeit one told through the lens of David Cronenberg meets David Lynch after one too many bong hits). It's gross, it's weird, it's chock-full of conspiracy theories, but it's also a brilliantly unsentimental look at the way we view women's bodies and their personal freedom too. As the film is released on DVD, we had a chat with Natasha about the movie and the many challenges they faced to get it made.
Congratulations on a completely bonkers movie. How on earth did you get it made?
That's a very intelligent question and the answer is, I guess, that it took about five years. For obvious reasons. There was the underlying insanity of the script. Myself and Chloë... I think it's the kind of movie that if we were trying to get made in the 90s with Jeremy Irons or someone, it would have made more a lot more sense to people. So, it took a lot of hard work and ultimately a lot of debt. Oh, and Canada. Canada always helps.
What genre would you put it in?
I guess it's a psychedelic, psychological thriller/comedy. I think it's quite intentionally funny in places. We thought, what if Rodney Dangerfield had been the star of Rosemary's Baby instead of Mia Farrow? Which is in and of itself a ridiculous jumping off point. Danny [Perez — director] was really informed by movies like Possession and Repulsion, a bunch of Cronenberg films, and also the documentary Oxyana about the oxycodone epidemic that's happening in America. These deserted, abandoned military towns that are turning into wastelands of addiction... And frankly there's a healthy dose of paranoid, YouTube, rabbithole conspiracy videos in there too. I think that Danny pretty much believes they could all be real. I'm not sure that Chloë and I do, but he makes a pretty convincing case when you're working with him.
It definitely feels like you sat down and deliberately tried to make a something that people will look back on as a cult movie in 20 years time.
I think that was something we were all aware of going in. That it was a movie that was going to live on. It's interesting to consider that it was born in a kind of pre-Trump America. Of course, it's meant to be slightly heightened, but within a few months of the film's release it became that much more viable, you know? I definitely think someone like Trump would have no problem being like, "Women? Ah, fuck 'em. Especially if they're broke! Let's just shove some new science in them." I think he's exactly that animal. All these ideas, of taking over a woman's personal freedom, her body, and the way our government and world at large seems to play so fast and loose with these issues, is ultimately absurd and disturbing. Especially in 2017, it's shocking that this movie has elements where it's so ridiculous and sci-fi and cult-y, and yet it's grounded in very real concerns.
What's striking is how unsentimental the depiction of pregnancy is in the film.
I have a friend who's a real film obsessive and she made an interesting point that it's not the first of its genre by any stretch of the imagination. A woman pregnant against her will is actually a cinematic trope that we're quite used to. It's just that generally when a woman's womb is taken over in cinema, the girl is helpless ingénue. And often a virgin. Just that idea in and of itself, of swapping that for a completely, cavalier, self-destructive, Hunter S. Thompson, Big Lebowski, Joe Pesci-esque character, and seeing that as a woman, becomes automatically radical and feminist in its approach. You know, she's not meant to be this sexy, little virgin that we all want to objectify and feel sorry for. And the reality is, you know, enough anyway! Like, enough with that idea of women. I mean, isn't it boring already? Didn't we catch the bad news from the Bertolucci set? So I think that yeah, we're not particularly sentimental about her case, but in many ways that's just because she's a modern woman and she doesn't want this fucking thing inside of her! I mean, with all due respect for birth or whatever, it just feels like it should be a consensual activity and not just a surprise.
You very rarely see women in these kind of slacker character roles, do you?
Yeah. I mean hopefully that's changing. I read an article recently acknowledging Lena's character in Girls and the women of Broad City are these more modern women, in traditionally male roles. So in many ways, it's all starting and that's great. But speaking for myself it's definitely something that I have a long history with. I grew up in a very macho environment. My father was a boxing promoter. I really admired Sylvester Stallone and De Niro and Pacino as a youth. And as I got older I started getting into Dennis Hopper and Lou Reed and Joe Strummer and Richard Hell and I began thinking about how I wanted to stand in the world, on the streets of New York. I think that underlying body language makes a part like this a real joy to play. I get to sit in my sweet spot of how I think women should get to be in film.
And there are essentially three female leads in it too [Antibirth stars Meg Tilly alongside Natasha and Chloë].
I think that's why it was such a challenge to get it made! It's not like we were saying we're going to get all the Marvel rejects in the movie, all the men… By the way Marvel Rejects is the title of my next film. It's just a bunch of crying actors who can't get into a Marvel film, myself among them. So it wasn't… Who do they like to put in movies? Gerard Butler. Or who's the guy from the Frodo movies? Orlando Bloom… Hold on I'm not done... And… Justin Bieber. If this film had been Gerard Butler, Orlando Bloom, and Justin Bieber then it would have been very easy to finance. Except that in the third act Justin Bieber would have given birth to an alien. Out of his vagina. So that's something to think about as a sequel, if any of those people are interested.
Text Matthew Whitehouse