Suck It Up was an encouraging sleeper flick that helped close out last year.
With a wise genre-crossing vision by Canadian filmmaker Jordan Canning (We Were Wolves) and a tender script written by Julia Hoff, Suck It Up delivered a strong story about grieving and rekindling friendships. The emotions within the material were enough to point the film in the right direction, but the indie was further boosted by breakout performances from Erin Carter (as Faye) and Grace Glowicki (as Ronnie). Carter and Glowicki have amazing chemistry in Suck It Up, enabling themselves to take viewers on a journey of hilarious highs and personal lows as their characters comprehend mutual trauma as well as their own insecurities.
I was ecstatic to interview both actors, wanting to know their process as performers approaching touchy material and if these characters are still able to be explored after this movie’s story is finished. But first, since the film is hard to pin down, how would they define Suck It Up?
Addison Wylie: Suck It Up is pitched as a dark comedy but, personally, it reads as a dramedy. Then again, maybe it isn’t supposed to fit in a specific genre or category. How do you interpret the film? Do you feel audiences will agree with you, or will they have their own theories?
Erin Carter: I personally love the tonal line this movie rides, and I think [screenwriter] Julia does an amazing job of using humor to emphasize emotional beats. I think grief is often seen through a very somber lens, especially in film, but I find there is so much authenticity in the use of comedic relief, even in the darkest times. Emotion is an odd animal, and I have often found myself laughing through the darkest moments, and crying in the happiest. Then again, I tend to use comedy as a coping mechanism a lot in my own life, so maybe it won’t necessarily resonate with all audiences, but I definitely found the tone of the film rang true with my personal experiences.
Grace Glowicki: For me, Suck It Up is a shape shifter. At one moment it feels like a hilarious comedy, and the next it feels like a heart-breaking drama. I think audiences will enjoy the balance of these two genres in the film. You’ll laugh! You’ll cry!
AW: What are the challenges of finding comedy in tragedy?
EC: I personally have very little trouble finding comedy in tragedy. I use humor as a coping mechanism all the time, so the characters I struggle with are those who wear everything on their sleeve, with no emotional filters. Faye isn’t at all like me, she doesn’t crack jokes to evade feelings, but she is definitely compartmentalizing her pain.
GG: As an actor, I think the challenge of finding comedy in tragedy is that in order for it to work, you need to render yourself extremely vulnerable to the tragedy part. In painful situations, I think the comedy comes when you don’t know what else to do but laugh. I think laughing and comedy during hard times functions as a stress release – it’s a survival mechanism of sorts.
AW: Suck It Up is essentially modeled around your fantastic performances. After all, Julia wrote these parts with you two in mind. In this case, does the film’s plot and humour rely on individual character work, or was it a collaborative effort? Did you two (along with director Jordan Canning) work together to figure out reactions, emotions, and punchlines?
EC: Due to the nature of this project, Grace, Jordan and I were lucky to have had a lot of time prior to shooting to work at finding these characters together. Because it was so collaborative, Grace and I were always a part of the conversation.
GG: We gave that information to Julia, who took those tiny kernels and exploded them into a full fledged script! She’s a talented writer with such a strong voice and I feel so lucky I’ve gotten to act in one of her imaginary worlds. Jordan then rehearsed Erin and I in many different ways – we took improv classes, learned dance and fight choreography, had long conversations about character and practiced the scenes. Being directed by Jordan was an incredibly enjoyable experience, and she remains one of the most hands-on directors I’ve worked with.
EC: This project was a bit of an anomaly in that sense, even though the project was essentially written with us in mind, these characters are still very far from who we are. Not only were we challenged as actors but had ample time to discuss and rehearse prior to shooting, which made it pretty dreamy. It’s refreshing to have so much time with your co-stars and collaborators before stepping in front of a camera.
AW: Suck It Up is a good standalone story, but have you wondered what your character was like before “this” film? Do you think there’s a “moment before” worth exploring with Ronnie and Faye?
GG: Definitely! I personally would love to see a movie about the period of time when Faye was dating Ronnie’s brother and the three of them were hanging out all the time. I think this would be funny because of all the different dynamics that would exist within that ‘truple” – you have siblings, lovers, and best friends all in one!
EC: Because this movie picks up months after Garrett has passed away, the conversation surrounding who Garrett was to these women, and where these characters were coming from was enormous. It was much different than any other project I had been a part of; projects where you show up with your own interpretation of a character’s past, put together from all the little hints you collect from a script. This story is about loss, but more than that it’s about friendship; it’s a story about two women who have known each other for the better part of their lives and that needed to show on screen. We worked really hard at getting everyone on the same page about where Ronnie and Faye had come from, and what their experiences had been with Garrett’s sickness, and subsequently his death, both together and separately.
AW: It would be great to see Suck It Up continue to launch Jordan Canning’s career as a filmmaker. What about her filmmaking do you find special?
EC: We had pursued Jordan even before we saw her first feature, which seems crazy now, but we just loved her! Her work was great, but what brought us together was a connection to the material. In my experience, it’s rare and really special to find someone who connects so deeply with a story you are looking to tell. We knew she would soar with this script from the first time we met with her. She brings a lot of herself to her work, and I think for this film in particular she brought a lot of authenticity to the table.
GG: I find everything special about Jordan’s filmmaking. She’s an incredible balance of many different things. She’s funny and emotional, she’s technical and creative, she’s a leader and a collaborator.
Jordan and I were hungry one day after shooting and, for some reason, starting pretending that a large suitcase was actually huge bag of chips – Jordan wouldn’t let the joke go and neither would I. While aggressively shovelling imaginary chips into our mouths for what must have been minutes, I knew she was a great filmmaker.
Suck It Up hits iTunes on Tuesday, January 16. Read my review here!
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