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Monogamy’s Rashida Jones and Chris Messina on Why Geriatric Public Sex Is Really Hot

In Murderball director Dana Shapiro’s intimate new drama, Monogamy, Woody Allen alum Chris Messina and Parks and Recreation star Rashida Jones play a comfy Brooklyn couple whose relationship starts to disintegrate when Messina’s character becomes fixated on a hot blonde exhibitionist. The real-life buddies are in New York for the movie’s premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, and they checked in for a frank conference call about the film, their thoughts on monogamy, and the peculiar ins and outs of having sex in public.

So Rashida, did you really just escape the ash?
R: Can you believe it? I was stuck in Europe. I had to drive thirteen and a half hours from Paris to Madrid. It was pretty crazy. I just got out Monday night.
C: Of course, the whole time I was worried about you. And then I was even more worried that you wouldn’t make it to the screening.
R: You’re such a dick! [Laughs.]
C: Rashida and I are friends, but we really know each other through my girlfriend. We obviously don’t have any of the history that the couple in the movie does, so it was really kind of wild, weird, and cool to go down that road with her and get pretty dark.

Did that make playing a couple awkward?
C: Well, it’s always strange to kiss someone with 10, 20, 40 people around. And when you’re looking at someone who was, like, holding your baby in her arms in your house in California last week, you know, it’s odd. I was nervous about it, to be honest with you.
R: Were you really? I didn’t know that.
C: I think I’m always nervous about all of it, and then I was nervous because I wanted Rashida to have a good time. As you do with all these things, you’re taking a risk. I mean, Dana Shapiro, he’s terrific. He did this movie called Murderball and it was fantastic, but who knew if he could make a narrative? I’m super happy with the way it turned out, but it could have obviously gone another way.

So what are your respective thoughts on monogamy – the way of life, I mean, not the movie?
C: Well I have two boys and a girlfriend, so I obviously believe in it, but it’s still hard! I don’t know how natural it is, at least for me — for a lot of men I know. I would love to close my eyes and see myself with my girlfriend when we’re 99 years old and I have a pipe and she’s knitting a sweater, and I hope that’s the way it goes. I think it’s a challenge every day.
R: I agree – I don’t think it’s necessarily a natural state of being for animals such as human beings, but I do think the rewards of sticking with it are pretty fantastic. That being said, I really don’t think there’s a lot of that going on right now. There’s a lot of fear and running and bullshit irresponsible behavior. I think dudes are acting out right now in a huge way. Guys are freaking out. I think as a culture we’re going to have a really hard time with it.

What about having sex in public? There’s a lot of that in the movie, too.
R: I totally get how people get off on it. It makes perfect sense to me. If that’s the thing that works for you, do your thing. Whatever gets you to the mainland.
C: Yeah! I’m down with that answer. I mean, I’ve liked having sex in bathrooms when there were people knocking on the door … that was fun. But I don’t know – these characters take it to a place that I never have. I have a tough time showing public affection.
R: I think it’s weird, right? It’s one thing to make out in public, but to actually have sex in public? That’s tough to do. I was just in Naples and I saw two young people making out on a corner. It was pretty awesome. But they were young.
C: Young – that might be the answer right there. Or maybe it’s old people, too. Like maybe if you saw an 80-year-old couple making out you’d be like, "That’s incredible!"
R: That’d be kind of cool, actually.
C: If you saw two, like, 80-year-olds, fucking on the corner of Bleecker Street?

I really have no idea how I’d respond to that.
R: You would love it! Oh my God. You would love it.
C: Yeah, you’d totally take your iPhone and take a video of it. And it’d be on YouTube the next day. It’d be like, "Hey, how do I get to that site again?" "Google 80-year-olds fucking on Bleecker." "Oh, there it is."

Photo: Patrick McMullan