If you’ve seen one Romantic Comedy, you’ve seen them all, right? That’s certainly a popular view of the genre, but it still finds ways to surprise you from time to time. Like opening a film where the girl makes the first move. (!) Then the guy pumps the brakes. (!!) Then he starts to tell a story of ejaculating into his own eye. (!!!) And she’s totally game to hear it. (!!!!) Where are we going with this?
The film is based on the book by co-authors Steve Almond and Julianna Baggott and gives us a passenger seat to Lucy Hale’s Jane and Nat Wolff’s Will as they share their most personal romantic misadventures. At once formulaic and daring, the movie conjures an occasional wistful smile from viewers who’ve had their own brushes with romantic destiny dashed by hubris or immaturity or just bad timing. Wolff and Hale both tell their tales confidently, embodying their characters with just enough empathy to keep us from throwing popcorn at the screen but enough pathos to come out appropriately scarred. As the title reveals, these stories are told with the driving conclusion of bringing these two to one another, but as viewers we ultimately just get a pretty long, tragic clipshow of two people who are really, really bad at relationships.
As a current resident of New Jersey, I appreciated the setting of the film, occasionally pointing at a location like Rick Dalton in ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD, and I must admit that I did see something of my younger self in some of the situational missteps of the characters. If you like your romantic comedies a little greasier than the standard fare or you’d like your meet-cutes to be a bit rockier, this might be your flick. For Lucy Hale completionists it’s mandatory viewing, and I must admit that Nat Wolff can wear a smirk like a runway model. I got the chance to chat with the actor about coming aboard the film and some of the finer nuances of the production.
Eric McClanahan - So how did you come aboard this project?
Nathaniel Wolff - Well basically it had been like ten years of doing projects where I was being killed or killing somebody and it had been a lot of dark jobs in a row and then this came out of nowhere. First of all, the fact that Lucy [Hale] was attached, who I’d been wanting to work with for years. I think she’s brilliant and very underrated for how magnetic and nuanced she is. Then I got the script and there was something sort of warm-hearted but also interesting to it. It still hit the beats of a rom-com and was accessible but I felt that it was aiming for something a little bit deeper and more meaningful so, I was really excited about being a part of it.
EM - With a rom-com there’s always that concern about chemistry - you and Lucy have amazing chemistry, but you also have to tell several other stories and maintain chemistry with other actresses. Was that daunting or did you welcome the challenge?
NW - It was, like Lucy and I had months of preparing, getting ready to do this. We worked on this script with Peter [Hutchings, Director] for a really long time and we got to know each other really whereas I met a lot of those other people like the day of. Then it’s kind of an exercise in just jumping in. In a certain way, they were all incredible actors, but it’s hard to create chemistry with someone you’re just meeting as opposed to Lucy who I have this deep relationship with so it kind of works for the movie since you’re rooting for these two to get together, so despite it being hard for the actors I think it serves the movie.
EM - I could agree with that. So the big musical number, featuring you and Lucy and Britne Oldford, “It Had to Be You,” had to be a fun experience. Tell me about that.
NW - It was such a great sequence. You know, “It Had to Be You” was in WHEN HARRY MET SALLY, and it was in ANNIE HALL, so it’s something of a rom-com tradition - those are two of my favorite movies ever, so we all found that song together and in the book version of this story they’re writing letters to one another, which is not that cinematic, so we were always trying to find ways to cinematically show their love, especially as they’re just meeting in this brief period of time, and that was a really romantic sequence to film.
EM - Was it hard to see yourself with teenager hair in the flashback scenes?
RL - Yes! I hated it! The hair person actually looked at a picture from PAPER TOWNS, and I was like “God, I hope my hair still does that.” Yeah, it was hard, and also just to have the fully clean-shaven face, which I don’t think I’d had in years and years, I was like “Oh I forgot this is how my face looks.”
EM - I found it interesting that ten minutes before the big musical number of “It Had to Be You,” Lucy’s character Jane says to your character Will “You literally could’ve been anyone.”
NW - That is interesting.
EM - So when you two do get together, it’s just another magical beginning. All the stories told throughout have romantic beginnings, so how do you see this story playing out with Will and Jane?
NW - Well, I think what’s nice about the ending, and I liked it in the script, is that it’s not saying these two are going to get married and spend the rest of their lives together. I mean, it’s probably doubtful, but they are starting off a relationship in a much more honest, mature place. Even though there was romantic meet-cutes with the other people, there was always an element of performance, which I think we all tend to do, and then you get to that six- or seven-month stage of the relationship and you say “Wait, this is actually who I am” and the other person says “This is actually who I am” and then you both go “Oh God!” Then you have to recalibrate, whereas I think starting a relationship out like this, like “Hey, this is me, warts and all,” I think it might be a purer way to start and it is most definitely a more mature way than the rest of the relationships so I do have to have more faith in Will and Jane than I did in any of those other relationships.
EM - Speaking of maturity, how did it feel to take on the role of a father and what was it like working with the young Juliet actress (Kenzie Grey) on the phone?
NW - Yeah, that was one of my favorite scenes in the movie, and I thought the revelation that Will was a father was one of the most redeeming elements of my character. Because even though he’s not necessarily able to be the best dad maybe something in this courtship with Jane could lead him to be a more present father. I do think that he has this idea that he has to hide that in order to find love but in the end it ends up being the most beautiful thing about him, that he is this dad that loves his daughter so much and cares for her with his whole heart. This was my first time playing a dad so that was pretty exciting. [pause] Except for me, because I have fifteen kids in my home, so I’ve been playing that role. [laughs] Hey Buster, get off the couch! They’re all named Buster, somehow. I didn’t want to remember a ton of names so I just yell “Buster” and they all turn.
EM - Yeah, you and George Foreman got it figured out. For a rom-com this film is a little more down and dirty than the usual fare. How would you sell this film?
NW - I would say that this is a good movie to watch if you love the rom-com genre but even if you don’t, because obviously it hits a lot of the beats of the rom-com where it’s sweet and funny but I think it also has something to say about how our past relationships affect how we enter into a new relationship and I saw a couple at the SAG screening the other night that said “We’re going to have a real conversation after seeing this movie tonight” and I thought it was amazing that a movie can do that.
EM - So what’s next for you?
NW - I am going on tour with my brother starting next week. We’ll be on tour for a couple of weeks, going all over America, not outside of America this time. Then we’ll see.
EM - Alright, thanks so much and best of luck!
WHICH BRINGS ME TO YOU is currently in theaters and will be available On Digital and On Demand on February 2nd.
Until next time, lead with your heart.
-McEric, aka Eric McClanahan-