It Happened In L.A. is a modern-day comedy of manners that follows a group of 30-something Los Angelinos as they search for the elusive happily-ever-after and ponder if it even exists. The film primarily follows Annett, a former writer who is dissatisfied in her longterm relationship, as she compares what she and her partner have against the seemingly perfect couples in their friend group and doles out unsolicited advice to her token single friend. She is irritating, selfish and totally relatable.
Annette is the kind of unlikable woman we need in 2017. After an election cycle that showcased just how much women are still confined by the ridiculous likability factor, it is a GD breath of fresh air to watch a so-called unlikable woman unapologetically grace the screen. Michelle Morgan, who wrote, directed, and stars in the film, describes the ensemble cast as, “a bunch of vulnerable egos all bumping into each other.” Morgan grew up watching the Woody Allens of the world embody this sort of nutty persona in their work. "It is a bit of a statement,” Morgan said, “having a [female] character that is unapologetically very neurotic and a bit self-absorbed, because men are always allowed to play those roles and women are the ones who are cleaning up the mess, comforting the male character, making them feel better. I chose not to do it that way.”
Having been a screenwriter for the better part of a decade and working in a studio system that is constantly giving notes about how to make people more likable, Morgan was ready to flex her muscles and make a film with a different sort of leading lady. “Characters can get really watered down when every single person has to have these very obvious redeemable qualities,” Morgan explained. It’s the reason she was drawn to making characters that don’t always seem to be sympathetic, characters you are not even sure you like.
The film can be rather divisive. Morgan explained that some people take it really literally. It isn’t uncommon for her to hear variations of "I don’t like her," ranging from Annett’s voice to how she is acting. It’s a criticism we are all too familiar with. “It’s been an interesting journey, “ Morgan noted. “I never really considered myself a feminist before I made this film, and now I consider myself to be a feminist. I feel very angry at the way women are viewed by men and other women in films.”
It’s a complicated time to ask people about their inspiration with so many recent revelations about men we once admired, but I had to ask. Morgan cited Lena Dunham’s Tiny Furniture as one source of inspiration, but lamented the lack of women who have historically made these types of films. She knows from experience that you need to claw your way into directing and that for women it takes even longer and you have to fight even harder. "Three weeks ago,” she said, “I might have cited this week’s most popular predator [Louis CK]. It’s unfortunate that the men themselves are often not as upstanding as their work. It’s why we need more females doing comedy and telling these kinds of stories.”
We, at BUST, couldn’t agree more.
It Happened in L.A. is available on iTunes now.
All Images via It Happened in L.A.
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Miriam Mosher graduated from Smith College before moving to New York where she is a writer by day and beer maven by night. She is a proud feminist, a champion of the semicolon and an avid thrifter. See more from Miriam at Bushwick Daily and Two Cities Literary Review.