Among the contenders for this year’s Sundance “It” girl, we have to make room for Lizzy Caplan, who is having a breakout festival with her lead role in the touching breakup comedy Save the Date and her scene-stealing performance as a bitter, coke-happy bridesmaid in the girl-com raunch-fest Bachelorette. Best known for her role on Party Down, supporting turns in Cloverfield, Hot Tub Time Machine, and Mean Girls (as well as a six-episode stint on True Blood, a current guest arc on New Girl, and a relationship with Friends’ Matthew Perry), the 29-year-old actress is finally getting a chance to show her range. She sat down to talk to us about breakups, women’s humor versus men’s humor, and her soon-to-be-notorious monologue about blow jobs in Bachelorette.
Congratulations! You’ve got two hit movies at Sundance, and people are talking about you.
I’m trying to tune that stuff out. I don’t know if I should read reviews or not. I sort of want people to send me positive reviews, but then again I feel like that’s lame.
Do you usually read your reviews?
That’s the thing: I usually do, but I’m usually in smaller roles, so they’re much kinder.
There have been a lot of breakup movies, but Save the Date seems unique in that it follows two people who break up not because they’re falling out of love, but because they’re too close. Things are getting really serious.
I’ve been in that exact situation, which is probably why I was so drawn to this part. My ex-boyfriend and I, we were best friends for years and years. And we tried to be best friends for years after breaking up. And it just doesn’t work. Because you’re not best friends; there’s still all this underlying stuff. It’s so much easier if you break up because somebody did something awful, or hurt you in this terrible way. It’s so much easier to hate somebody than it is to love somebody. The idea of circumstances dictating why you can’t be with each other, having nothing to do with how much love you feel for each other — it’s brutal.
Was it painful to do the part?
It could have been, but it wasn’t. In fact, it was a really joyous experience making this movie. Everybody got along so, so well. We were all jammed together in this tiny trailer; there was no personal space or anything like that. And we all bonded. As far as bringing up personal stuff for me, I think by the time we did this I was over all the stuff in my own life that it reminded me of. Otherwise I think it might have been really painful.
Tell me about your now-already-infamous airplane monologue about blow jobs in Bachelorette. What did you think when you first read it?
It was there from the beginning, in the earliest draft of the script that I had read. I was a little nervous about it, not because of the subject matter, but I was a little uncomfortable about the idea of a girl using that to get material possessions from a man. But it’s such an absurd speech. She’s in such an absurd place in her life. And if she needs to use blow jobs as currency, then I think it’s because she’s doing anything she can to distract herself from herself.
Everybody’s been comparing Bachelorette to Bridesmaids, since before it even screened here. How does it feel when your movie is placed immediately in the context of another film?
Usually, it feels extremely, extremely frustrating, but I’m such a massive fan of Bridesmaids that I’ll take it as a compliment. It would be much harder to sugarcoat answers about a movie I disliked. I loved what that movie did and now has done for comedic women, so I will listen to that question till the cows come home.
But at the same time, it’s very different, no?
It’s so different that I don’t really want to ride the coattails of that movie. If we use that movie to sell this movie it’s almost like we’re tricking them. It’s a lot darker and the characters are written in a much more unlikable light, even though they’re redeemed at the end. Leslye Headland is not afraid of writing hateful characters and people who are easy to detest in certain moments. But I think all of them have their moment of redemption in the movie. Bridesmaids didn’t have that. It didn’t really need to.
Bachelorette is more shocking, too.
Definitely. I think that people who go into that movie expecting to see something like Bridesmaids are going to be kind of disappointed or freaked out or grossed out. I like how shocking it is for some people to see girls doing stuff like that. And while it’s pretty exaggerated, there’s a lot of truth to it, too. I don’t think they’re phony characters. And the relationship between them is rife with tension, and that happens whenever you have friendships that span a decade or so. I’ve got lots of friends I’ve known for years, who become family in the best way, and also the worst way. It becomes harder to change.
You’ve done a lot of comedy. I’m sure you have some thoughts on the idea of women’s humor versus men’s humor. How are they different? Especially now that we’ve learned that women can be just as raunchy as men.
Exactly. With female humor, I think there’s something very lovely and hilarious about exploring the particular neuroses of the female mind. It’s just not the same thing with men. I mean, there are exceptions, but for the most part, women beat themselves up in their heads more. They overanalyze stuff far more than men do. I find that so hilarious. Especially when you’re comparing guys and girls and the fact that we’re trying to mate for life while we’re actually thinking about the world and our behavior in completely different ways. Men do stupid, funny things and it’s over. Whereas when a girl does something stupid the night before, she will obsess about it the next day. It’s exhausting to be a girl.