© 2024 KRWG
News that Matters.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Directors of 'AM I OK?' shine light on what it means to find your sexuality

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Queer love has firmly taken its place in TV shows and movies. "Call Me By Your Name," "Red, White & Royal Blue" and "Moonlight" are just a few of the stories that explore those first tense and tender romances in the LGBTQIA community. But what doesn't get examined as often are the late bloomers, the lesbian, gay and bisexual coming-out stories that happen in your 30s and beyond.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "AM I OK?")

DAKOTA JOHNSON: (As Lucy) I should have figured this out by now.

SONOYA MIZUNO: (As Jane) You can't look at it that way.

JOHNSON: (As Lucy) Jane, I'm 32 years old.

MIZUNO: (As Jane) There's no timeline to figuring it out.

JOHNSON: (As Lucy) People figure this out when they're like, 9.

MIZUNO: (As Jane) Nine?

SUMMERS: That's Dakota Johnson as Lucy and her best friend Jane, played by Sonoya Mizuno in the new movie "Am I OK?" It's the directorial debut for comedian Tig Notaro and Stephanie Allynne, who are also married. Tig Notaro and Stephanie Allynne, welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

TIG NOTARO: Thank you.

STEPHANIE ALLYNNE: Yeah, thanks for having us.

SUMMERS: OK, so when this movie starts, we meet Lucy and Jane, and they're that kind of close friends where they're, like, texting all day. They can recite each other's orders at a restaurant. Can you just start by telling us about the two of them?

NOTARO: Yeah. I think that it's a dynamic that one is very much more in the driver's seat of the friendship, and the other one is - would you say happily along for the ride or...

ALLYNNE: Yeah. We - in kind of doing this film, I think we learned about these dynamics of sort of one friend that sort of calls the shots...

NOTARO: Yeah.

ALLYNNE: ...And the other one that goes along with it. And I think that happens when you meet younger, and then as you get older, that friendship has to shift in order to remain friends.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "AM I OK?")

MIZUNO: (As Jane) I am not your keeper.

JOHNSON: (As Lucy) What? You're always controlling me. You control everything I do. You told me when I could eat a [expletive] muffin.

MIZUNO: (As Jane) Yeah, because if I didn't tell you what to do, you'd probably never leave the house.

ALLYNNE: Hopefully, it shifts, I guess.

SUMMERS: And at the center of this movie is Lucy's coming-out story. She's in her 30s, and for the first time, she's actually saying out loud that she's interested in women. And her story is loosely based on the films writer's life. Her name is Lauren Pomerantz. But I'm curious, how did each of your own coming-out experiences influence "Am I OK?'s" look and feel and the dynamics between the characters?

ALLYNNE: Well, I felt like I found my sexuality later, but I was in my 20s. But I do really understand that feeling of, oh, my God, how did I miss this? Oh, my God, I haven't been living an honest life, and I'm missing out on what could have been. And I think that's what Lucy goes through in the movie is sort of, I can't keep living like this. I have to be able to act on it. And so what does it look like when I say this out loud and I change my life and start living honestly?

SUMMERS: What about for you, Tig?

NOTARO: Gosh, I always tell people, like, I know I look the way I look right now, but I didn't always know that I was gay, as surprising as it might be for some people to hear that. I always think people assume I'm the mayor of that world. But I was probably, like, 21 when I figured things out, but I think no matter what age you are, you can connect to that surfacing feeling of, oh, my gosh. Is this me? Is this a fleeting feeling I have for this person, or is this who I am? Yeah, I think it's hard to just not connect to that general message and vibe of the movie.

SUMMERS: Can we talk about that scene when Lucy is first telling Jane about her feelings? They're laying in bed, having a sleepover after a drunken night out, and it's just so raw and vulnerable and earnest. Walk us through that scene.

NOTARO: It is so raw and incredible. Like, whenever I hear just the audio of it, I'm like, God, they just did such a phenomenal job in that scene.

ALLYNNE: Yeah. And I feel like that was something we really wanted was to feel the intimacy with them, which was part of having them do that scene in bed and having a sleepover, which felt very female.

NOTARO: Best friend female.

ALLYNNE: Yeah.

NOTARO: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "AM I OK?")

MIZUNO: (As Jane) I'm going to bed.

JOHNSON: (As Lucy) You always do that so abruptly.

MIZUNO: (As Jane) I know when it's time.

JOHNSON: (As Lucy) Can we have a sleepover?

ALLYNNE: And so just the proximity and the intimacy of the bed alone - and then I think that kind of environment allows for you to sort of talk in that way and express yourself in that way. And I think a lot of women relate to those moments of lying in bed with a friend or somebody, a partner, and what conversations come out in that moment.

SUMMERS: Ultimately, there ends up being this rift in Lucy and Jane's friendship. They have this epic fight, and they stop speaking. And during that time that they're not as connected, we see Lucy continue to grow on her own without Jane. And I don't want to spoil too much of the film, but we do see her hook up with a woman for the first time, and it's both awkward in a familiar way and also quite funny.

ALLYNNE: Yeah.

SUMMERS: I mean, that's just, like, such a huge step in one's life to take without having your best friend there to talk through all of it with.

NOTARO: Yeah.

SUMMERS: Why was this event without Jane so core to Lucy's development?

ALLYNNE: I think she had to feel what it felt like to be independent and to be sort of alone with her own truth. And I think sometimes when you bounce everything off of someone and you're always sort of feeding off their opinion in the conversation, you're not really doing it in life. And I think for Lucy, it was extremely important to feel that independence and adulthood in that relationship.

SUMMERS: Tig, you also appear in this film in a really funny role.

(LAUGHTER)

SUMMERS: What can you tell us about it?

NOTARO: Well, I can tell you that the look that I have in this movie was influenced by - I wanted to kind of mimic the look of Patti Smith. And I actually think I did a pretty good job.

ALLYNNE: Yeah.

NOTARO: In fact, I was at the Tribeca Film Festival a couple of years ago, and Patti Smith was at this brunch that I was at. And I went up and I told her that I just did a character in a film and used her as inspiration for my look, and I showed her the picture. And she just stared at it blankly, and then she finally went oh, wait, that's not me.

SUMMERS: Oh, my gosh.

NOTARO: And I said, no. That's me. That's my point. I think I did a pretty good job.

(LAUGHTER)

SUMMERS: The two of you directed this film together. I'm so curious. What was it like working together in this way, especially given the fact that you partnered on this film, but you're also married to each other.

NOTARO: Yeah, we work together often. And in fact, Stephanie just directed my most recent special on Prime video called "Hello Again." I mean, we met on an independent film in 2012, called "In A World..." And yeah, we've been together 11 years, and we're married. We live together. We have two kids, three cats, a production company. And people do approach us all the time, like, oh, my God, what is that like? Or, ugh, I worked with my spouse, and - (groaning). But Stephanie and I, we have certainly our bad days, but I feel like that's so few and far between. And we genuinely love working together.

Also, when we're working on projects separately, we always reach out to each other and say, oh, I wish you were here. I wish you were on set. I wish I was working with you today. And that's true.

ALLYNNE: Yeah.

NOTARO: It's not just for press.

(LAUGHTER)

SUMMERS: We've been speaking with Tig Notaro and Stephanie Allynne. They are the directors of "Am I OK?" It's streaming now on Max. Thanks to both of you.

NOTARO: Thank you for having us.

ALLYNNE: Yeah, thanks for having us.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Jordan-Marie D Smith
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Sarah Handel
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.