Slut in a Good Way Interview

Slut In A Good Way is a little bit of a hard sell. First, there’s the title which fits it perfectly once you see the movie and know the context, but on first glance is a bit… strong. Secondly, it’s a black and white French-language movie, which means the uphill battle to get US audiences to give it a shot might as well be covered with ice.

However, it’s an incredibly smart and, more importantly, incredibly fun movie. The story follows three female friends who are in the prime of their teenage lives. They spot some very attractive young men working at their local toy store, so naturally they all get jobs there and that’s when things get messy. Relationships start and stop on a dime, there’s cross pollination and all the while the three young women at the heart of the story are testing the limits of their friendship.

It sounds deep and serious, but the tone really is way lighter than you’re expecting. Naturalistic performances, a smart script and keen direction make this film a delightful experience.

I was able to sit down with two of the film’s stars, Marguerite Bouchard and Rose Adam, as well as the film’s director, Sophie Lorain to discuss the decision to shoot black and white, how the actors gave such naturalistic performances and just why they decided to end on a Bollywood number.

I want to talk a little bit about the visual look of the movie. I’m sure people ask you about the choice to shoot black and white a lot, but what I found very interesting about it in this context is that it gave a very contemporary story a timeless feel. Was that the goal from the beginning?

Sophie Lorain: Absolutely. That’s what I wanted to do. The subject was also very touchy. Talking about the sexuality of young girls is a bit… crunchy… in our days. I wanted this piece to be timeless and also… In the original script Catherine Leger’s dialogue is very important and witty and intelligent. I wanted the audience to focus on that. I didn’t want that to go under the radar, so I thought the black and white would help. Also, the film takes place in the equivalent of a Toys R Us, which is an orgy of colors. Movie-wise that is disgusting. It’s really horrible. For all these reasons, but mostly I wanted the film to have a timeless aura and that’s why I did it.

It does soften the sexual stuff a little bit. It’s not lurid…

Sophie Lorain: Exactly. It’s not raunchy, it’s not vulgar, it’s none of that. I wanted something where everyone could focus on what was being said. We worked with lenses that were made in Germany by a very small company and it gives it this old fashioned look. Almost nothing was worked in post. Almost everything was done with the right lenses. That’s where we spent our money, on the cinematography. I wanted to have the light like one of these old French movies from the 1940s, with this very soft, mellow look. I wanted that black and white to be almost poetic, not a harsh black and white.

I was going to bring up the lighting because so often these days you see people slap a monochromatic filter on footage and that’s black and white. You can always tell. I’m not the biggest fan of these movies shot in color that get the black and white treatment after the fact, like Fury Road and The Mist. I adore it as an experiment, but there’s a huge difference to me when you actually shoot for black and white versus doing it in post.

Sophie Lorain: Absolutely. This isn’t something we decided along the way. It was a tough call, to tell you frankly. Roma and all these beautiful films had not been out then. When I came up with this idea my producer and French-Canadian distributor were like, “No. No, no, no, no.”

But for all the reasons I told you about I knew we had to do this film in black and white and also because this film is destined for a young audience. This audience doesn’t care if it’s in black and white or in color. They see videos all the time on Facebook and YouTube in black and white. They’re not turned off by it. They don’t care. If we give it to them in a way that’s nice and easy they’re going to go for it.

We had to do all the costumes specifically for how they’d read in black and white. Their costumes in real life were disgusting, a mixture of purple and orange and green. You wouldn’t wear that. Lots of squares and different textures that read better in black and white.

There’s no way we could have changed our minds as we were doing it and decided in the end to do it in color. It would have been horrible.

For Marguerite and Rose, I wanted to talk to you guys about your performances. If you go see a big Marvel movie or a horror film, the performances are allowed to hide behind a scare or big action scene. Here all the weight of the movie is on your shoulders. There’s nowhere for you to hide. If the dynamic between you guys as friends doesn’t work then the movie doesn’t work. Can you talk a little bit about the pressures of taking on roles like this?

Sophie Lorain: (To me) May I translate? Because the question is so good I want her to understand it completely.

Sure.

Sophie Lorain: (Translates the question in French to Marguerite)

Marguerite Bouchard: That is a good question. I think there was a pressure and it is normal. There is no adult and we don’t have the energy of someone as experienced, so we have to make this movie just about us, about young people. I think it was really hard, but I think that’s what makes the film. We feel that energy.

It’s about the relationships and the dialogue. It’s not about, as you said, the special effect. It’s relations and emotion. When we feel safe with the person that you play with it’s really easy and it’s fun because we are friends.

Sophie Lorain: They found a stability in all of that and it grounded their performances. They trusted each other, the three girls, and that was very important for them. They were very aware that they couldn’t hide anywhere. The black and white is even worse for that because all the sound comes forward.

Rose Adam: And you truly want to make the characters relatable. I think that was the big thing for me. I’m a person that talks with my hands and I take up a lot of space. My character didn’t talk a whole lot, but she was absorbing everything. It was all in my eyes and how I moved. I wasn’t used to that, so it was a lot of work for me to take everything that I’m used to doing with my body and my face and get into character, because it was so different for me.

Marguerite Bouchard: I think it was the opposite for me. I’m not shy, but I’m a little timid… even in more English, but even in French, too. I think in a group of girls I’m not the girl talking too much.

Rose Adam: You’re not the leader.

Marguerite Bouchard: No, I am listening. I’ll speak up when I have something to say, but (my character) Charlotte is a loud talker and wants to make her point. I think I’m more calm than here. It was hard for me to take the lead of the group because it was a real group. It was hard for me to be the leader.

What I liked about Charlotte was she had agency, even if that agency sometimes sent her in the wrong direction. She gave every emotion and decision 100% commitment, even when that was wrong. But of the three, I think I related the most to Rose’s character, Aube. Her timing was always off. You get the shit end of the stick in that group.

Rose Adam: (laughs) Yeah, she tolerated a lot.

She does and when she finally gets what she’s been wanting, she gets it at the wrong time and it causes friction in the group. I loved that dynamic and the gray area with the characters. I’m an old American guy and I was relating to these French-Canadian girls!

Sophie Lorain: I think that’s universal. The movie is about those three girls, really. It’s not that much about sexuality. There are different layers to it, but friendship is at the core of it all. To claim that freedom to be what they are is the most important thing.

And it’s non-judgmental.

Sophie Lorain: Absolutely.

And not just for the girls, either, but also for the boys who in any American movie would be the predatory, thoughtless idiots.

Sophie Lorain: Right. They’re boys. The guys have a certain assurance because they are boys and life is like that. They don’t question themselves as much as these girls do because they’re not in the same judgmental way that girls are.

And the boys aren’t approaching these flings from a disrespectful place, either, which was refreshing.

Sophie Lorain: Not at all. I didn’t want that because that would have been a totally different story. If I did that we would have gone somewhere else, to something more tragic. That’s a drama and I didn’t want to go there. There’s this equilibrium and we wanted to make sure as we went along in the movie that there isn’t any judgment on either side.

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And there’s still drama, there’s still push and pull and characters are challenged, but in a lighter way. I mean, the movie ends with a Bollywood number. If that doesn’t tell you the kind of tone the movie’s setting I don’t know what will. It’s a very pleasant and happy beat to send the audience out on.

Sophie Lorain: That was the point. That wasn’t written in the movie. There was no Bollywood Christmas dance. The original ending of the movie was more classical. I knew it worked on paper. I’d read it and it works because Catherine Leger is a good writer and she doesn’t do stupid stuff. She didn’t want to go and do something overly romantic or Cinderella-like. She had an ending that was quite plausible. I have to give it credit. It worked.

But once we started shooting the film I was questioning this ending, not because of what it said, but because of what it looked like visually. I thought because the film was in black and white and the dialogue was fun and the girls were so full of life and this storyline, which isn’t the biggest storyline ever, but it’s cute, it’s refreshing, it’s intelligent. I said to Catherine, “You know, we’re going to get to the end and we’re going to expect a little something. Otherwise it’ll be a little been there, done that.” She said, “Yeah, fine. Do whatever you want to do” because we know each other and she trusts me.

You know that scene in the store when the guys are practicing on the video screen, on the dance game? There were several videos and I knew I had to show them (doing the dances) so I pick which songs so they could have time to practice. As I was doing that I started watching a lot of videos that my producers had bought, that we had the rights to, and that’s when I saw this Bollywood Christmas thing. I said, “How stupid could this be?” (laughs)

I showed it to my director of photography and we said to each other “Why don’t we do something with that at the end?” That was exactly what I was aiming at. We shot both endings. I said if we block the ending as it is written and it doesn’t work we won’t shoot it. We’ll change right away. So I sent the video to the kids and I said, “Guys, watch this. Learn the moves. We might do this at the end.” They just went, “Are you crazy?” I said, “No, no. We’ll give it a try.”

So the day came and we started blocking the ending as it is in the script and I said, “Fuck it. This isn’t working.” I stopped everything and plugged in the video of the Bollywood Christmas and that’s how it ended up in the movie.

It’s an interesting choice. Slumdog Millionaire did the same thing to a similar effect…

Sophie Lorain: But there it belongs. It doesn’t belong in my movie at all! (laughs)

But what I love about it is it hands off to the credits almost like a play. The story’s over, here’s your cast of characters.

Sophie Lorain: Also, it’s not a real Bollywood dance. It’s Bollywood Christmas in a house in a suburb…

Rose Adam: With a bunch of teenagers who don’t know how to dance at all!

Sophie Lorain: It resembles them. It resembles the story line, too. It’s a mix-up of different kinds of things and that’s what it’s all about.

It came across as very natural and authentic, which the whole movie does. Thank you guys so much for taking the time to talk to me. I appreciate it.

Sophie Lorain: Thank you very much.

***

Slut In A Good Way will be released by Comedy Dynamics on March 29, 2019.

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