By Lainna Fader
Drew Denny is a master of laughing through tears. As she sat on my couch last month recounting her father’s last days before succumbing to pancreatic cancer and other painful memories from her childhood, she had the biggest smile on her face. That’s just how Denny operates—when given the choice to laugh or cry, she chooses to laugh. And that’s how she approached her debut feature The Most Fun I’ve Ever Had With My Pants On, a side-splitting and tear-inducing exploration of life, death, love, and friendship that premieres at the Seattle International Film Festival today.
Denny was in the middle of an artist residency in the Netherlands when she started planning to visit her father in New York. The former Air Force pilot lived all over the world—India, China, the Philippines, and finally Colombia—and was a hard man to pin down, but he told her if she got herself to NYC on October 21st, he’d be there. She got on a plane headed to the City, only to find that she needed to get to Boston right away—her father had just found out he was dying.
Denny spent the next three weeks at his bedside, writing her first film as she cared for him. Determined to honor his memory through art, Denny gathered some of her best friends from USC’s film school and set out to make a movie.
“There’s something very absurd about that thing that happens when someone dies,” she says. “I was bawling crying with my sister—that last night was so intense—but all we could do was talk about it and laugh and cry about it and laugh some more. I wanted to represent life as a messy, complicated, frustrating, exciting and occasionally overwhelmingly beautiful but also relatively confusing experience.”
But the film’s not just about death—it’s a beautiful tale of female friendship and an exploration of what it means to be a strong woman. The Most Fun… follows two childhood friends—Andy (Denny, playing a role based on her 13-year-old “wild bitch” self) and Liv (Sarah Hagan from Freaks and Geeks and Jess + Moss)—who travel from Los Angeles to Austin performing mini-funerals in some of the most beautiful sites across the American Southwest. As Liv helps Andy cope with her loss by participating in the funerals, Andy helps Liv prepare for her first big role as a young actress—a vixen spy in a noir film to be cast and shot in Texas. In that space, Denny employs the good girl/bad girl trope to create comedy and drama and play with gender politics and societal conventions.
“I want to promote the good aspects of being bad,” Denny told L.A. RECORD. “The bad girl needs a foil, and every bad girl can learn a thing or two from the good girl—often, to take themselves seriously and respect themselves.”
Denny says that women have to write their own characters and direct themselves in order to be able to perform strong female roles—like Lena Denham writing Girls for HBO and Rashida Jones writing a film and selling it at Sundance—because men don’t usually write or direct those roles, and they don’t do a great job when they try. In her first film, Denny creates her own strong female figure, but she’s doing it in a hyper-emotional way, by performing her grief in public, which she sees as a stark contrast to the male-dominated, stoic world of conceptual art.
“I really wanted to use my real life and my dad because I wanted to make myself vulnerable,” Denny says. “I am a confused woman who had a strange dad who made dirty jokes to her at a young age. I figured I could make myself the most vulnerable by telling the truth in a really unflattering, un-romanticized way.” Denny says, “Airing it out in public—it’s not a very graceful way of being, not very refined or sophisticated—but I like that. I feel a very overwhelming need to communicate to people I don’t know yet.”
The Most Fun I’ve Ever Had With My Pants On will have its world premiere at SIFF on June 6 and will screen again on June 8. Check the festival site for ticket information and check out the trailer here.
Image Source: funpantsmovie.com