Interview By: J.P. Mangalindan
It’s hard for any parent to have to their child one day move out of the house and move on with his life â€” but what if your child never moves out?
That’s the quirky and innovative premise behind Tom Dey‘s newest romantic comedy, Failure to Launch. First coined by the media, “failure to launch” refers to a growing sub-culture of adults who never leave home, a truism Dey’s film explores with Matthew McConaughey and Sarah Jessica Parker as its quirky lovebirds.
Parker plays Paula, a saavy consultant hired by Tripp’s (McConaughey) parents to subversively kick their 35-year-old son out of the house by romancing him. Tripp’s previous first dates have usually ended in disaster when women discovered his less-than-ideal living situation, but when Paula takes it in stride, the handsome bachelor is pleasantly surprised. Paula’s scheme progresses as planned until it takes an unexpected turn: Paula falls for Tripp. But will their love survive Tripp’s realization of the ruse?
For Parker, whose last film, The Family Stone, was also a likable star vehicle, committing to Failure to Launch was a no-brainer.
“It’s based on an article; I had also coincidentally seen the 60 Minutes piece years ago about this phenomenon in Italy where it’s much more common,” she says. “So, I thought there were a lot of ingredients that seemed really interesting and looked really funny.’
“At the time, Matthew hadn’t really signed, but it looked like it was going to happen and he seemed really suited for this particular role. And I thought, what a completely perfect trilogy: The Family Stone, this really complicated hard part with these special people and this extraordinary director. Then go and do this big, lush studio romantic comedy and they don’t make these very often anymore, frankly â€” less and less so with people that myself and Matthew’s age â€” and then to do Spinning Into Butter, this teeny budget, six-week guerilla shoot of this really painful, grizzly material. Who would say no?”
The idea of a middle-aged man living with the parents would be enough to put off most prospective partners, but Parker remains neutral about the idea.
“There’s a myriad of reasons a person can be legitimately living at home past what is considered an appropriate age,” she says diplomatically. “I think there’s some advantages, frankly. There’s a couple I know who don’t have children, but if they did and their son lived at home, he would never eat better. They’re great: they always have food in the house. You know those people who always have food in the house? That would them. So I think it depends on the guy.”
Still, if the guy in question was recently voted the Sexiest Man Alive, that might count for something, right? Parker laughs.
“Well, that hadn’t been announced when we were filming!” she says with a giggle.
Parker has a three-year-old son, James Wilke, with actor Matthew Broderick. How would she feel if her son still lived with them 30 years later? Might she resort to her own parental tactics?
“It’s hard for us to imagine a son who lives with us as 35,” she admits with pause. “You know, it’s very hard to imagine my son being intimate with any woman. I just can’t. He’s three. It’s so bizarre! It’s hard for me to imagine what he’ll look like when he’s 7, let alone 35! God-willing, I’m still alive!”
It’s mentioned that regardless of who she’s playing â€” whether she’s a successful sex columnist in New York City, an anxious in-law or a smart and sexy dating consultant â€” that Parker brings a subtle, down-to-earth believability to characters. Rather than someone like J. Lo badly portending to being an Italian wedding planner, you buy Parker’s simultaneous and inherent sense of female confidence and vulnerability.
“This idea of being likable… How do you play something and think, ‘Am I likable? Will people like me?” she says. “Being that result-oriented results in lousy work. … If you think of Mary Tyler Moore in Ordinary People, how moving she was and how compelling a portrait that was, how much pain she was in, how seemingly unlikable she was: she was cold, withholding and really not a great mother. She didn’t know how to love and how to touch. But she was very effective and very moving and as a result, you felt for her. Or take James Gandolfini: he goes around killing people, but you love him anyway. You make the best choices based on what’s available to you and you try to tell a story and not to worry.”