In recent years, Toni Collette has been playing a slew of dramatic characters, most prominently a cancer victim in Miss You Already. So she was ready for an all-out comedy and found one in Fun Mom Dinner, which might be a follow-up to Bridesmaids, long after the honeymoon.
“I was inspired by the amount of incredibly talented smart funny women involved in the film, but also I just wanted to laugh,” Collette admits. “I’ve spent so much time fucking crying, I just wanted to have fun and I swear to God it was the best time.”
The cast and crew are assembled at the Sundance world premiere and all praise the experience, especially the woman at the helm, first-time Australian director, Alethea Jones, who made her breakthrough by winning the best film prize at Tropfest 2012 with her short film, Lemonade Stand. Interestingly, Collette had been on the jury and was keen to work with the rising young talent on her first feature.
“Australians looking out for each other,” Jones notes. “It’s not just nepotism; I think we’re all worthy. But it's a big bad world out there.”
It’s not just Australians who recognise Jones’s talents. Former publicist Julie Rudd, the wife of actor Paul Rudd, had written her first screenplay, Fun Mom Dinner, inspired by her experience as the mother of their two children. She admits that Jones exceeded all her expectations as the woman who would bring her story to the big screen.
“I’m hoping this is the first of many incredible things for Alethea,” Rudd says. “In any industry, getting more women in there brings a good sensibility that we need in this world. I was on set for the whole shoot and we were a gaggle of girls, most of us moms, so it was like the movie was for real. On many occasions we were trading stories, and it was wonderful to be doing a movie of this subject matter and to look around, and see a crew of by and large many women in really important positions. It was empowering and it felt right.”
The film follows four mums, Collette, Molly Shannon, Katie Aselton, Molly Shannon and the irrepressible Bridget Everett, who go out for a night on the town. Initially at dinner, Collette’s Kate and Everett’s Melanie are at loggerheads, but over numerous drinks, several joints and some hilarious detective work, they bond and become the best of friends.
Before shooting, the tall imposing Everett (from Inside Amy Schumer; she also plays Australian actor Danielle Macdonald’s mum in the Sundance hit PattiCake$) thought she might be intimidated by Collette. “Toni’s a movie star and I’m a newbie.” Yet she was pleasantly surprised. “The first time I saw Toni, she came walking over and she was so stunningly beautiful in person I was like, 'What is this thing floating towards me?' She disarmed the situation; she made it very cool. She just wanted to have fun, to hang out. She’s really wonderful.”
Jones likewise sings Collette’s praises. “Toni was the only actor on the film who with every direction I gave her, would just go, ‘Ok’ – and she would crush it. She could do everything that I asked her. She could make it honest and present, no matter what. She’s what I call you a thoroughbred.”
“I’m a filly,” Collette chuckles. “We had no time, there was no money on this film, so it was necessary for Alethea to be well prepared. It was a great experience.”
Everett and her voluminous breasts are impossible to miss in the film.
“Yes that's how I feel most comfortable, like my boobs are my thing,” she says. The wry and raunchy comedian, who will bring her cabaret show to Sydney’s Inaugural Mardi Gras Comedy Festival at the end of the month.
“My mum used to walk around without a bra and she had a lot of insecurities, but she is also the boldest and funniest person I know," Everett says. "I took the best parts of her and tried to put it on stage.”
The Hollywood star of Ant Man and all those outrageous boys comedies (Anchorman 1 & 2) and The Perks of Being a Wallflower, is known as one of the nicest guys in Hollywood. As it turns out he’s also a devoted husband.
“I knew Julie was writing the movie but it was all her,” he says giving his missus her due. He has a small but hilarious role in the film so was part of the action.
As for the Aussie women on the film he says, “It was great working with Toni, who I didn't know before. I’d met Alethea a year ago; we had lunch and she is really cool and talented, and I’d seen other things she had done. It was a great set to be around, because it was predominantly female; even the crew was predominantly female.”
Are you kind of female?
“I don't think anybody would put up of an argument about that!” he chuckles.
So are Australian women dynamic?
“They are dynamic. The ones that I’ve met are as dynamic as hell. Really.”
Would you put yourself forward to come to Australia to act in a film?
“Yeah, yeah. My buddy’s been over in Australia for the last six months. I don't think he wants to come back. He’s having a good time.”
Is he living there and not working?
“Yeah, he’s with Rose Byrne,” he responds, so he’s clearly referring to actor Bobby Cannavale. “Rose is there working* and he loves it there.”
* Ed.: Rose Byrne will be presiding the Jury of this year's Tropfest, like Toni Collette did before her in 2012.