Sympathy for the film bros
In I Like Movies, Chandler Levack lends her female perspective to the workplace comedy and toxic movie fandom
BY RADHEYAN SIMONPILLAI
FILM FESTIVAL PREVIEW
Chandler Levack derails the film- bro- to- incel pipeline in I Like Movies. Her debut feature, which is premiering at TIFF, is a smart and sweet coming- of- age dramedy about a young dork working at a video rental store who is almost violently protective of his movie tastes. Made through Telefilm’s Talent To Watch program, the film is inspired by Levack’s own experience working at a Burlington Blockbuster during her last year of high school. “That was one of the loneliest periods of my life,” she tells NOW on a Zoom call from her dad’s home in Burlington. “I was basically working all the time and waiting for high school to really be over, but at the same time not really appreciating my friends, people around me or even where I was from. I was just so focused on getting out of there while completely in love with movies, music and popular culture – really defining myself just by my taste.” Levack – a former NOW intern turned film, music and culture writer and filmmaker – spoke to us about projecting her own experience onto a male character who exhibits film bro traits and giving the male- dominated workplace comedy genre a tender and incisive female perspective. Rad: I saw the development of this movie on Facebook, the casting and stuff. My initial preconception was: I got this movie’s number. “Chandler is making this nostalgic movie of working in a video store. There’s going to be a twee vibe. I know what she’s going for.” I watch the movie ( this morning) and it’s not like the premise isn’t what I expected, but fuck – it blew me away. Part of the reason why I had these preconceptions, when you decided to make a movie set around 2000 in a video store, my immediate touchstone was Kevin Smith. This is way more genuine than something like Clerks. Levack: Yeah. Adventureland was kind of a touchstone for me. It’s interesting because I came of age watching all those movies in the back room at Blockbuster and having to read myself into the main characters, because there was no female films that were made like this. As a filmmaker and a critic, I’ve really immersed myself in the world of film bros and music bros, really tried to see the world through their eyes and try to love the art that they loved and understand why they loved it. At the worst, those guys can be really insidious, mean and snobs. They use their love of film and popular culture as a way to not engage with people. I was like, “What were those guys like in high school? Is there a way that maybe you could set them on a path of healing early in life where they can start to identify women and other people in their lives as human beings and really learn how to connect and engage with people before it’s too late?” That was the intention of my film: to deconstruct that cultural trope at the most pivotal formation of their ego and identity and set them on a course of healing. So you went after the primal moment of film bro toxic culture. Levack: Although there’s way more of me in the movie. I’m a lot more like Lawrence than I would care to admit. Let’s talk about this gender flip thing. You’re tackling your last year of high school. But you made the character a dude. You’re saying you grew up in that environment. You were a part of that environment. You identified with them a lot more than maybe you would want to admit. Would you say that there’s an internalized misogyny? Is that something you had to deconstruct when writing this? Levack: I became a journalist/ cultural critic really early in my life. When I was 18, I was already interning at NOW Magazine and writing articles for the school newspaper. By the time I was 19... 20, I did an internship at Spin Magazine in New York and became a professional music critic. I dropped out of university. I worked at Eye Weekly. I defected to the other alt- weekly. As a very young woman, all my mentors were strictly men in their 30s/ 40s. I felt like I was learning about culture through the stuff that they liked. I think it’s the same with filmmaking and the male auteurs that I revered when I was young. You hit a certain age where you start wondering what would my life and cultural tastes be like if I had been only strictly watching, like, Agnes Varda movies and had been mentored by women and reading more female authors and stuff. When I was applying to the Telefilm Talent To Watch program, this filmmaker read my application and gave me some advice. She was like, “Why isn’t your main character a woman? It’d be so much easier for you to get funding. Why do you even want to make a film about a young man? Haven’t we seen enough young men on screen?” Which is a valid question. But I was like.. it’s so interesting that women are being told we can only write female characters if we want to tell a story as a female filmmaker. There’s a really interesting gap in representation: Films about young men that are made by women, where it’s women seeing men maybe from a different angle than they themselves. I think that’s the real muscle of your movie: The way you can break him down, the way you have his number, the way you see how the world sees him and how the female character Alana sees him; the empathy you have for this character. Like I said, you gave me a character that I never thought I’d be empathetic for. You also obviously have a lot of sensitivity to what Alana ( a manager at the video store) experiences in Lawrence’s orbit. So having your perspective on this Lawrence character, that’s what was so incredible, just seeing him from your eyes. For me, I look at this guy like he’s the makings of an incel. Levack: I remember my lead actor Isaiah Lehtinen telling me this movie was Ladybird for incels. Yes!