‘The Broken Hearts Gallery’ Filmmaker on Her Directorial Debut
In Natalie Krinsky’s directorial debut, “The Broken Hearts Gallery,” Geraldine Viswanathan plays Lucy, a 26-year-old hipster who lives in Brooklyn with two roommates, Amanda and Nadine (played by “Booksmart’s” Molly Gordon and “Hamilton’s” Phillipa Soo, respectively). Lucy is an aspiring art gallerist whose career takes a hit after she’s fired for delivering an angry drunken toast at an opening, directed at her erstwhile boyfriend, Max (Utkarsh Ambudkar, “Pitch Perfect”). She then meets Nick (Dacre Montgomery, “Stranger Things”), and after they become friends, Lucy begins to contend with her lifelong habit of collecting — hoarding? — mementos from past relationships. TriStar Pictures released “The Broken Hearts Gallery” on more than 2,200 screens this weekend.
In Owen Gleiberman’s glowing review of the movie, he writes that writer-director Krinsky “has a witty and spirited commercial voice.” And she does have a lot going on these days, in addition to doing press for “The Broken Hearts Gallery.” She’s imminently pitching two TV shows, one of which she couldn’t discuss, the other of which is a limited series about the friendship between Alexander McQueen and Isabella Blow. Krinsky is also writing another movie to direct for No Trace Camping, the company that produced “The Broken Hearts Gallery,” and described the project as “essentially what would happen if my mother and I were on a crime spree a la ‘Thelma and Louise.’”
She was also very pregnant until this week, with a due date of Oct. 2. But Krinsky had the baby on Tuesday, and, according to a Sony publicist, participated in the movie’s junket Thursday, and also posted this photo from the hospital.
In a recent interview (before the baby was born!), Krinsky talked about the surprising way “The Broken Hearts Gallery” came together, the state of romcoms and casting Soo as a lesbian cad.
What’s the origin story of this movie?
It’s my longest relationship, so there’s that. I wrote the first draft of this movie over 10 years ago when I was like 25, and I was this struggling young writer. I had been breaking up with my boyfriend, moving apartments, got fired from my job — really, the Lucy trifecta that she goes through in the movie. I wrote this script, and it ended up getting some attention, and wound up on the 2011 Blacklist. It had a lot of starts and stops, like so many specs do.
About four or five years ago, No Trace Camping, which is a Canadian and LA company, came to me, and they were like: “We love this movie. And we really want to make it.” And I was like, “Yeah, LOL, so do I. Cute story.” And they were like, “No, seriously, you just need to do a quick rewrite and update it, and we’ll go and cast it.”
When I finished, they said to me, “Would you ever want to direct a movie?” And I was like, “I would love to direct this movie, what do I have to do? Do I have to, like, act it out for you, or make a reel?” And they said “You just have to say yes.” And I was like, “Well, thank you for letting me know what it feels like to be a straight white guy! I accept this challenge on the basis of nothing.”
I had never directed anything. I had never even directed traffic across the street — no one would trust me to do that. And it was the most magical, incredible, life-changing experience, truly.
Writer/Director Natalie Krinsky seen at “The Broken Hearts Gallery” x Sony Pictures Drive-In Experience at the Sony Pictures Lot.Eric Charbonneau
Tell me about casting Geraldine. You’d seen her in — what?
I had seen her in “Blockers,” I had seen her in “Hala,” and I’d also seen her in “Miracle Workers.” And I had met with — if I’m being very honest — many, many young, amazing actresses. But Lucy is a very specific character. Geraldine and I talk about this a lot — she’s someone who has her foibles and her anxieties, but she’s someone who is sort of asking the world to love her. Not despite the fact that she is weird, but because she is weird. And I think that’s something that we haven’t often seen, especially in a romantic comedy, where we’ve seen so many women try and twist themselves to be something that they’re not for a man or a partner. And then realize they should be themselves.
When I met Geraldine — we met actually on FaceTime, ironic in this world we’re living in now — and there was just something very self-possessed and wise about her. And she also has just the most incredible comedic timing, I think, of almost anyone I’ve ever worked with. There was something about her that I just said, “That’s her.”
I’m just so excited for the world to see her as a lead in a romantic comedy. Because I don’t think we’ve ever quite seen someone like her in this genre before.
Having an Indian Australian woman as the lead in a romcom struck me as important.
The whole cast just feels like a group of friends to me, and feels like real people living in New York.
This isn’t really a Sundance movie — what were you imagining as its distribution plan?
It’s a more commercial film. I think that is a little above my paygrade — but we were planning on just screening it for buyers beginning of March, and then everything happened. We ended up just screening it on links. And Sony stepped up, and said, “We love it and we want it and we feel passionate about it.”
Are you a romcom person in general? Is that your genre?
I live for a romcom, in terms of consuming — I want to spread my wings as a filmmaker, and do a variety of things. But yeah, there’s definitely little tributes to my favorites in there. I grew up on “When Harry Met Sally” and “Bridget Jones” and “Broadcast News.” And even some oldies are my favorites, like I’m obsessed with “His Girl Friday” and “It Happened One Night.” So it’s kind of been in my bones forever.
Romcoms were on the outs for a while, and then Netflix swooped in and really brought back the genre. Do you think there’s still a theatrical audience for romcoms these days now that people can see them so readily on streaming platforms?
I still believe, perhaps hopelessly, in the power of cinema. We have these beautiful sweeping films like “Tenet,” which is in theaters, and “Mulan,” which it turns out is not going to be in theaters. Obviously, everyone has to make their own choice in this moment, but sitting in a theater and watching a comedy is something that I think is — in normal life — a tonic. You feed off of the communal experience of laughing together.
I have to ask you about casting Phillipa Soo as a lesbian heartbreaker.
Oh my God. A dream!
How did that happen?
I loved Pippa in “Hamilton,” and she hadn’t really done a role like this. And I was also just, like, a huge fan of Molly Gordon from “Booksmart.” The character of Nadine, who Pippa plays, she’s this heartbreaker, but with truly a heart of gold. And Pippa, when I saw her in “Hamilton,” she just had a bit of that energy to me. Once we had cast Geraldine, and we were moving on to the other parts, I genuinely — my producers will tell you this — woke up one day, and I was like, “Phillipa Soo is Nadine and Molly Gordon is Amanda. And that’s it!” And they were like, “OK!”
And really when the girls got together, Pippa just transformed into this glamorous sort of vixen, and Molly really took to her part as a murder-obsessed law student with a silent boyfriend. And the three of them together, the first time we all got together to rehearse, you could have sworn that they had known each other their whole lives. It was rapid-fire dialogue amongst them from the very beginning. And I was like, “Oh, my job here is done. I’ll just sit back and let them do their thing.”
Last year was great for women directors — the highest percentages ever. And this year was supposed to be, like, things really have changed! What’s your perspective on where women directors are right now?
My hope is that the state of the world right now doesn’t hinder the progress that we’ve made. Now having done the job, I think there’s long been a — I’m just going to call it what I think it was — myth of this male director auteur, put forth especially in the ’60s and ’70s as, like, no one else can do this job. And it’s so difficult, and it’s unattainable for anyone except for this small subset of people.
I think it is a hard job. But there are so many incredibly qualified women who I’m now lucky to call peers who are doing it, and doing it at the highest levels. And who are also doing it in a way where their casts and our crew are having a great experience. Because I think you don’t have to treat people like garbage to get excellent results.
I think time will tell, and hopefully we’re doing the work amongst ourselves as an industry to continue to empower voices. Not just women, but people of color and people who are non-binary or trans, or whatever the case may be. I think that there’s room for all of these voices, and I hope that they continue to be on the screen because it’s a wealth when they are.
And so I hope that they’re given the opportunity, because we’ve so long subscribed to something that tells no us that only men can do that. It’s absolute garbage.