The words “save the date” immediately bring forth images of white gowns, floral arrangements, and choosing between chicken or fish. But the film Save the Date, directed by Michael Mohan (who co-wrote the film with Jeffrey Brown), doesn’t focus on those clichés. Instead, it centers on Sarah (played by Lizzy Caplan), who’s trying to figure out what she wants in life. Instead of saying yes to her boyfriend Kevin’s public proposal, made soon after they move in together, Sarah breaks up with him. We spoke with Caplan about her new flick, getting hitched, and the concept of “forever.”
Caplan’s character in the film, Sarah, is the kind that the actress consistently nails: a sweetly sardonic, down-to-earth lady you’d love to hang out with. Mohan describes her as “a rare actress who not only has an amazing mixture of strength and vulnerability, she’s also just very down to earth and I think many women can completely relate to her.” Caplan says that when she took the role, “I was nervous that people were going to think that it was a movie about weddings—I don’t think it’s about that at all. I thought it would potentially be a little misleading, but that’s okay.”
Most viewers can probably relate to Sarah, who clearly loves Kevin but can’t commit to a lifetime in the relationship. She has to make the decision to end things, though she can’t quite put her finger on what’s wrong. As Caplan describes Sarah, “She’s just a little slow in terms of relationships, the normal progression of a relationship.” So why does Sarah decide to move in with Kevin in the first place? Caplan theorizes, “I always imagined she was getting pressure from a lot of people saying that it was the next step: you move in.” There clearly isn’t a lack of love between them—the film shows an especially sweet scene of the couple slow-dancing in the apartment they share, him shirtless, her in underwear. But Caplan says, “I always saw her as a character who was so attached to her freedom that anything that compromised that made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up, and she needed to leave as quickly as possible.”
While enjoying her post-breakup happiness, Sarah takes up with an admirer, Jonathan (Mark Webber), and experiences that wonderfully awkward newness of a budding relationship. At the same time, Sarah’s sister, Beth (Community’s Alison Brie) is consumed with planning a wedding to her fiancé, Andrew (Freaks and Geeks’ Martin Starr). Says Caplan, “What we tried to do with the movie was juxtapose the excitement of something new and the mundane aspects of the long-term relationship. There are pros and cons to both—excitement or comfort.”
As to her own feelings about marriage, Caplan says she “kind of vacillates, but most of the time, I’m in favor of it, even if it makes no sense at this point. I understand why it was created and it made sense way back when, but now, as you know, the success rates for marriages is abysmal.” She continues, “The part of it that I’m into is that there’s something very romantic about at least taking a shot at it, even though it’ll probably end in tears and misery.”
Though they hadn’t worked together yet, playing siblings came easily for Brie and Caplan, because they both have sisters. “If you don’t have one, you don’t understand those specific fights and tension that always occurs between sisters,” Caplan says. “It’s infuriating.” Beth is the practical, meddling sister to Sarah’s hands-off, impulsive one. They drive each other crazy, but they stick together, no matter what. In a scene that takes place at their parents’ home, the sisters sleep in their shared childhood bedroom, and Sarah crawls into Beth’s twin-sized bed.
When asked about the differences and similarities between Sarah and Casey, Caplan’s character on the short-lived and critically acclaimed Showtime series Party Down, she says, “Casey has commitment problems, too and is very attached to her freedom, whereas Sarah’s character is not so career-driven. She’s just more attached to the concept of being untethered.” For Casey, she says, “everything comes second to being a successful comedian or actress.”
Unlike Casey, Caplan has already found her success, both in movies and TV shows like Mean Girls, Cloverfield, Bachelorette, and Party Down. Her very first acting job was in NBC’s much-beloved Freaks and Geeks, to which she is still grateful. Recently, she took part in a reunion photo for the show, staged for Vanity Fair’s comedy issue. “People love that show, and deservedly so—it’s really, really amazing, it’s the perfect television show. It seems strange how long ago it ended.” Next up for Caplan is Masters of Sex, which she begins filming in January. The drama, about the infamous sex researchers Masters and Johnson, is set to premiere sometime next year on Showtime.
As for Save the Date’s title, I explained my theory to Caplan: that it’s a wry commentary on the fact that sending out ‘save-the-date’ cards implies we know exactly what’ll happen in six months, though there’s no way we can. She laughs, “That’s very smart. I’m going to use that in my next interview.”
Save the Date premieres nationally in theaters on December 14, and is available on video-on-demand.