Set in modern day New York City, Benjamin Cox’s Stereotypically You is a hilariously unhinged look at being single when everyone else around you is partnering up and making babies. With a protagonist who specializes in daydream hallucinations, the film manages to simultaneously deliver raucous zany fun and truth telling commentary on the realities of dating in this modern age.
Tell me a little bit about your inspiration for this film. It is hilarious and spot on with its commentary. How did it come about?
The genesis of the film is really that life is funny, particularly the way people communicate. Like Americans speaking loud, slow English in Venezuela and wondering why no one will help them; that kind of thing… Having said that, when I say communication, I mean not only with one another, but also with ourselves – our inner dialogue.
I remember when I picked up a copy of The Bonfire of the Vanities many years ago, what struck me was the syntax of that book. I hadn’t experienced a literary journey like that – traveling both in and out of someone’s brain, so quickly and so seamlessly. I was really impressed with the impact it had on me as a reader.
In general, I find it fascinating thinking about the translation between a character’s inner and outer worlds. There’s virtually no limit to the cinematic devices that serve the telling of that story. So when you combine those possibilities with the insanity of dating in New York City, you get Stereotypically You.
Why New York City?
Well, New York City is a really special place. Sometimes special comes in the form of the amazing melting pot that is its inhabitants. Sometimes special is waiting in a brunch line for two hours… And when it comes to dating, NYC is truly unique. It almost becomes a character in Stereotypically You.
The joke is that there’s nothing funny about dating in New York City, right? Like it’s serious business… You play this game on date after date at a breakneck pace, but what do you really get out of it..? Now, in my case that’s my wife, a daughter and another on the way, so don’t get me wrong! [laughs] But… There’s no denying that dating in NYC can be shamelessly fun, too. Thus, bringing people along for that ride really required New York.
What is it about being single that makes it ideal for comedy?
I think being single is simultaneously liberating and incredibly lonely. And since no one really knows what they’re doing when encountering prospective mates, it’s that notion of emotional “winging it” that lends itself well to comedy. I could make five more movies right now about being single, there’s so much material.
“Ever notice that when you’re NOT in a relationship, everyone else is in a ridiculously happy one?” That’s Charlie’s opening line in the film and I think it’s a feeling that so many single people encounter… Aaron Tveit really nails Charlie’s neuroses, too. And we can laugh along with him as an audience because we’ve been there. Charlie can’t just date Abby Elliott’s character Angela, because he first has to get through her girlfriend Anne (Annaleigh Ashford). And when two of Charlie’s best friends – Lauren Miller’s Kathy and Shane McRae’s Vince – seemingly have their act together while Charlie clearly doesn’t, it’s the kind of thing that would make any single person feel bummed even though they should really just be happy for their friends..! [laughs] The comedic possibilities are endless.
How much real life experience on your part made it into this movie?
You know, it’s funny. I get asked this a lot. And although I’d be happy to have Aaron Tveit play me in my biopic, the truth is that the overwhelming majority of what’s on the screen is entirely made up… Though I do like the idea of spending time in bars as film research – honey, I’m off to do more grueling work!
Really, though, the vast majority of ideas for Stereotypically You were culled over time. I constantly email myself scene ideas, dialogue ideas, tricky situation ideas, etc. and then go through a pretty arduous review process when I ultimately sit down to write. Some content is directly from real life (maybe a story someone told me) and some of it is ideas popping into my head that I happened to have written down.
How fun were the fantasy scenes to come up with? They really take the film into fun and truth telling space. What was the motivation for this mechanism?
My wife and I sometimes refer to certain films as “broccoli movies” – the kind we watch because we know they’re good for us – and “popcorn movies” – the kind we watch just to have fun. The notion with Stereotypically You is to give people a film that on the surface is pure popcorn, but deep down has some broccoli in it, too. And to achieve that combination you really need the metaphorical apparatus; the fantasy.
I also think that the more personal Charlie’s journey is as he descends into the surreal, ironically, the more accessible that makes his story to the audience. But you have to totally go for it or it won’t work. So that was the motivation behind both the film’s structure and the cinematic devices employed.
And, yeah, it was a blast to invent… My Irish heritage tells me that writing is always torture, at least on some level. But when you’re dealing with ways to have Abby Elliott, Chris Elliott, Lewis Black and Kal Penn, among others, really give Aaron Tveit’s character a heavy dose of mind fk, it’s kind of a great way to spend your day