Getting Gleefully Inappropriate in Call Me Brother
Christina Parrish stars in the locally produced, subversive rom-com
When Christina Parrish wrote her first feature film script, she knew people were going to fit her into some kind of coming-of-age box. "I'm young," she said. "I must have written about some summer love, or something."
Well, she kind of did.
In her debut feature as a scriptwriter, Austin comedian Parrish plays Lisa, a teenager feeling the first pangs of ... if not love, then definitely lust for a familiar figure from her childhood. Only that friendly face is her brother, Tony (Funniest Person in Austin 2016 finalist and Saturday Night Live writer Andrew Dismukes).
Romantic comedies have always been about love overcoming the odds – or, alternatively, about two people who should never, ever be together. Take Sleepless in Seattle: It's one of the all-time great movie romances, but view it outside of the hearts-and-flowers lens and it's about a widower who suddenly gets a stalker. "With those old love movies, there's always a sense of 'Well, that person's kind of an asshole. Why would you choose them at the end of the day?'"
So her script was inspired less by When Harry Met Sally... than by Yorgos Lanthimos' taboo-violating debut Dogtooth, and Todd Solondz's anti-romance Happiness. "I don't even have words to say how fucked-up and weird that movie was. It's not a love story. It's just perversion and family."
The script came from a location she described as "the back bits of my mind ... I had a friend of mine reading it and giving me some notes, and she said, 'Do you know that you're writing an incest comedy?' I was like, 'Oh, that's why it's so weird, and why I'm feeling really dirty and having fun writing it.'"
Of course, it's one thing to write a script, and another to convince people to help you make it. Fortunately for Parrish, her reputation for transgressive comedy about inappropriate uses for bubble gum and H-E-B Buddy Bucks preceded her. "There were enough people who went, 'Well, I've seen what you've done, and we expect it to be weird.'" However, it undoubtedly opened some kind of floodgate. When she started discussing the script, she said, "A lot of people had weird incest stories that they talked about." Then there's the ultimate barometer of society's quiet little kinks: online porn. "I did dive into some weird incest porn," she said. "Not 'watched it' but 'watched over it.' ... Whenever you go on Pornhub, it's always, '18-year-old and brother going at it.'"
The first major challenge was finding an actor who looked just enough like her to never let the audience forget their family connection, for that all-important "ick factor." "Andrew is super funny, and in town, and I thought, 'Yeah, I kind of look like him, [but] is he really up for it?'" Fortunately, she said, "He was down throughout the whole process."
The next challenge was finding kids to play their younger selves. Parrish still seems a little shocked that not only did they find two suitable actors, but their parents agreed to let them be in it. "I don't know what it is about how we pitched this. I think that if a stranger approached me and told me about their incest film, I don't know if I'd be like, 'Yeah, I want to do it,' or, 'Let my kids be in it.'"
Austin Film Society and Fallout Theater present the Austin premiere of Call Me Brother at AFS Cinema, 6406 N. I-35, Sun. Feb. 17, 4:15pm with post-screening Q&A. Cast and crew meet-and-greet starts at 3:30pm. Tickets at www.austinfilm.org.