AE: Without giving too much away to our readers, shortly after your character suffers a concussion, she begins to have a sexual reawakening. She’s married to a woman and is the mother of two, but begins to seek out experiences with other women. As a viewer, I was left asking myself, was it the concussion that shifted something inside of Abby, or was it just a wake up call, an excuse even perhaps—
RW: I have a strong opinion about this.
RW: I think that some of the tag lines that have been attached to the film have created this confusion, because they almost imply a linearity or connection that’s too literal between the head injury and her behavior. I think it’s a lot more about a rattling, jolting, disorienting event intruding upon a life that’s very much predetermined.
I mean you’re like a gerbil on your treadmill, going through your day, same as yesterday, same as the day before and something comes in a sideswipes you. Literally or figuratively. Boom, there it goes. You’re suddenly in a relationship to your life that is askew and you’ve got one foot in it, and one foot out because you’re not feeling quite yourself. You look at it and you say to yourself, what the hell is this? And how am I doing this? This isn’t me at all. What is going on? I think anybody looking at their own life can identify with a moment like that. It doesn’t have to be a baseball to the head, but it might just be witnessing a catastrophic event happen to somebody else and suddenly you’re awake in a different way. It can be any number of things that hit you, and then your reality is shaken up for a minute and you can’t but see it for what it is.
I think that is more of what it is. Yes, there are symptoms. Some of that early disassociation the character experiences is partly that she really is a little bit knocked out of it. It’s also that she’s newly in a relationship to how disassociated she’s been for a very long time. I think it functions both ways, in a way.
AE: So Abby has this beautiful home, she’s got two healthy children, a “happy marriage,” but it’s not enough. Something is missing, and I think that is a very universal feeling. Sometimes in the pursuit to have everything, we lose parts of ourselves along the way. What do you think is Abby’s real journey through this whole experience?
RW: I think that the suburban dream in particular—that particular life is even different than succeeding and being a Manhattan socialite. You’ve done everything right. You probably went to the best schools, and you’ve done well professionally and all of that stuff. But you have also put yourself in a box. I think it’s very easy to lose creative energy in a place where there isn’t a tremendous amount of direct creative stimulation.
Everybody is sort of agreeing to fall into a pattern with one another and all agreeing to follow a certain set of safe guidelines for how to live. A creative temperament, which I think is also what Abby is, is likely at a certain point to feel like they are dying the death out there in the ‘burbs. So then there also becomes this love affair with Manhattan and these projects she does there that are these fixer-uppers. Just trying to get to something that’s going to wake herself up again.
It’s on a few different levels that she’s dead; one of them is creatively and one of them is sexually. Those two are very intertwined, you know. There’s plenty written about that, that creative energy and sexual energy are sort of bound up in each other. I think that’s part of what’s going on. It is real, that kind of suffering, even though we go “Oh, high-class problems.” When this movie screened in Germany, there was a person in the Q&A, who said “What is your movie trying to say about the bourgeoisies?” It was sort a moment that set me back because yes, there is one way to look at this film that is entirely to do with class. It’s entirely to do with class. It’s an interesting way to look at it but I think that it’s important to value that form of suffering. The sort of suffering of the stifled soul, as well as the suffering that comes from genuine, physical, deprivation. Maybe it’s even more a common ground for the audience too. Pretty much everyone knows that experience, I think. Maybe I’m wrong about that, but I feel like that is a pretty universal form of suffering.