Tribeca 2018: Alysia Reiner and director Marianna Palka on “Egg” | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
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Alysia Reiner (far right) in "Egg"

Tribeca 2018: Alysia Reiner and director Marianna Palka on “Egg”

Biting chamber piece explores differing views on motherhood, love, and friendship

May 01, 2018 Web Exclusive
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Once best friends at art school, life eventually took Tina (Alysia Reiner) and Karen (Christina Hendricks) in different directions. Years later, Tina and her partner (Gbenga Akinnagbe) invite Karen and her husband (David Alan Basche) over for dinner in the Brooklyn loft that doubles as her art studio. Karen is expecting her first child with her wealthy husband, which makes Tina’s own announcement all the more shocking: she’s embarking on a longterm performance piece in which she and her husband will become parents via surrogate mother. The revelation sparks a debate which becomes more heated as the night goes on; tensions rise to the brink of explosion when Tina’s young surrogate (Anna Camp) arrives and tosses her own issues into their combustible mix.

Egg is directed by Marianna Palka, the actress and filmmaker most recently seen in the provocative indie sensation, Bitch.  Alysia Reiner is the star and co-producer of the film, and is known for her roles in television programs such as Orange is the New Black and Better Things, and films such as Sideways and Equity.

Egg premiered at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.

Austin Trunick [Under the Radar]: I’m wondering if you can tell me, Marianna, how this script made its way to you?

Marianna Palka: I was very excited because I was offered the job. They basically sent it to me, I read it, and by page 19 I knew I wanted to do it. I didn’t even know the rest of the movie, but I was so in love with it. It was so different from anything else I’d ever read. I think the last time I’d read something this good was eight years ago. I loved the script so much that I would have died for it.

What were the things you loved so much about it?

Palka: Well, women talking to each other and the way that their language was so direct. They were open and saying things that everyone I know says, but is never said in movies. I think it’s really important to put stuff out there with characters that are real, and feel like real women. I like to see movies that are about women who aren’t 21 talking to each other. That’s my dream.

Alysia Reiner: David [Alan Basche] and I did a workshop of this over ten years ago, and then bumped into the writer [Risa Mickenberg] maybe a year and a half ago. She sent us the script, and she was working on it still. We just thought it was still so brilliant, and so relevant, and saying things no one had ever said before but we all thought. These are important subjects to talk about, particularly in this moment. We chose Marianna [to direct] because we so admired her work and her craft, but also the human being that she was, from watching her interviews and seeing the love which she brought to things. The love and care and nurturing that we thought she could provide as an artist, and also as a human, were what drew us to her.

This is your first film, Marianna, which you didn’t also act in.

Palka: That’s true.

How did that feel, for a change?

Palka: It was great. I really like directing, and I really like being just the director. This was a really great opportunity to be just the director. I think that there’s something very beautiful about being an actor and knowing actors, and knowing how to communicate with them. We had so much fun because their performances were already so good, initially. It was an incredible thing to direct, because it was like tweaking something that was already brilliant as opposed to trying to find it. It was a great journey.

Was your role one that you’d intended to play from the beginning, Alysia?

Reiner: Yes. It’s so funny, because I first read this ten years ago. David and I play different people’s spouses, which was so much fun. I’ve been with David for more than half my life now. To act with him really is a deep joy, but to explore what it’s like to play someone else’s spouse in front of your spouse – that was an experience!

This character always appealed to me because I feel like she’s such a truth-teller in ways that I, as Alysia, want to make people happy too much to say. She’s so balls-to-the-wall. She says things that I, personally, would be afraid to say.

You mentioned that you and your husband play different people’s spouses, but you’re also probably the two least compatible characters in the movie.

Palka: It’s so cute. They hate each other in the movie!

Reiner: We really are at war with one another in the film.

Was that something you were able to turn off between takes, or did you stay in character?

Palka: They turned it off. They were really cute and loving and affectionate to each other between takes, and very supportive of one another. They have such a great marriage, I feel like they could do anything together. Another thing that was great about it, is that David’s this incredible human being, but he wasn’t necessarily playing the greatest guy on earth.

Reiner: He truly is one of the greatest people I’ve ever met.

Palka: It was very easy to work with him, because we could go to these places with his character and do things that he’d never do in real life. It’s like you get the best performances for bad guys from the best men. So, he’s a great guy to play a bad guy. That’s just how it works.

Reiner: It’s true.

The film is staged almost like a play, in one location. Was it rehearsed like one?

Palka: We would always rehearse. We [shot and lighted it] so that it definitely looked like a movie, but we would rehearse it like a play.

Reiner: We were super lucky because we found an old bank building that was being demolished and changed into a VR studio, and we caught it in-between. We got to really build a movie studio in this space. It was so magical. Our set designer did a really spectacular job of creating this loft. I think our inspiration was Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, because that film is so dynamic and so relentless in its emotion, but it similarly only takes place in one place.

Palka: Just today we mentioned Edward Albee, because we saw Three Tall Women last night. The idea of bringing bitterness into things, the stuff that isn’t always talked about or that you can only tell your best girlfriend. Those are the things that I’m fascinated by as a filmmaker, and I think when you focus on it, it helps people deal with pain. I think that’s what stories are for, and that’s what this movie’s about. I think it’s really great about men, and it’s really great about women.

Your crew was predominantly made up of women, too.

Reiner: Yes. The heads of every department were female. I think we were around 70% women.

Palka: We felt very comfortable. It’s nice to do that for a while, until it all becomes even.

Reiner: Break the statistics.

Palka: We’re just going to keep hiring all-women because I genuinely feel that within our generation it will become old hat. But that’s going to have a lot to do with who we hire now.

It sounds like this was a very small, tight-knit production, which usually lends itself to a collaborative environment. Can you point to any magical moments that came about on-set through a meeting of minds?

Reiner: It was a really safe, warm space, but if I had to pick one moment, it’s the scene where I take [Christina Hendricks’ character] to my studio. We hadn’t planned to shoot that in one take. But we showed up Marianna’s like, “So, I just found out we can shoot this all in one shot, so we’re going to do that. Christina and I are like, [terrified gasp]. And so we choreographed it, and then did nine takes of the one-er. A nine page scene!

Palka: It was basically like saying to an actor, “Can you hit a home run three times?” And – pardon my French – but they fucking did it.

Reiner: It’s my favorite scene in the movie.

One of the things I think works really well in the film is that there are so many different messages you can read from it. Motherhood, of course, is the predominant one, but it says things about love, class, self-perception…

Reiner: … female friendship, money and how we manipulate each other with it… all of those things, yeah.

I’m wondering, is there a base message you hope that everyone who sees it will take away from it?

Reiner: For me, there’s a couple. [Laughs] We all felt it’s about love; true love is allowing other people the integrity of their own choices, and loving them for that. To me, that was the biggest message. Each character has very different choices at the end, and they come to them following a very deep journey.

I was reading a book by Ariel Levy called The Rules Do Not Apply, and she quotes Maureen Dowd in it. She says, “Everyone doesn’t get everything.” I feel like that’s another piece of it.

Palka: I feel like there’s this beautiful duality in the script. This absolute shadow and light, and what that does to a friendship over time; the love between these two women is so palpable, and I’m just genuinely so relieved that there’s a movie out there that’s expressing the depths of female friendship in ways that so many movies won’t. I think we need a story like this right now.

***
Egg premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.

(www.tribecafilm.com/filmguide/egg-2018)

 



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