Poking fun at action spy films
SUSANNA Fogel reckons she's a bit of a matchmaker.
The co-writer and director of The Spy Who Dumped Me - a comedy about two best friends who are thrust into the world of international espionage - was delighted to watch a real-life friendship blossom her two stars, Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon, on set.
"I've set up so many people in my life - whether it's for professional, platonic or romantic gains - and this is no exception," Fogel says.
"I just love the idea that I found these two girls who didn't know each other and put them in a situation where they could have this deep friendship. It was such a pleasure to watch and, selfishly, it helps the movie."
Kunis and McKinnon play Audrey and Morgan, two 30-year-old best friends in Los Angeles, who unexpectedly discover an international conspiracy when Audrey's ex-boyfriend shows up at their apartment with a team of deadly assassins on his trail.
Surprising even themselves, the duo jumps into action. On the run throughout Europe from assassins and a suspicious but charming British agent, they hatch a plan to save the world.
The film pokes fun at the cliches of action spy films such as the Bond franchise.
"I always loved seeing action films, but I was always drawn to smaller stories about character-driven relationships and friendships in particular," she says.
"The industry has changed so much and the stories that make it to the big screen (these days) seem to be these big cinematic spectacles and fewer Bridget Jones-type movies. As a director, I thought if I want my stories to be told in that way and as a theatrical release then I have to dig deep and see if there's another way to tell those stories. That's where this came from."
While there's plenty of action and eye candy thanks to Audrey's complicated love life, the heart of The Spy Who Dumped Me is the bond between two best friends. Audrey is down-to-earth but a bit of an underachiever, while Morgan is an oddball who loves being in the spotlight.
"Kate's playing a girl who is such a performer. She's happiest when she can sing and dance... to a degree that is who Kate is herself," Fogel says.
"Kate is so funny and she's so crazy when she's performing, but when she's not performing she's a person who's a really good listener and a good friend. She doesn't really want to be famous but she does want to perform. She's very complex and as easy as it would be to stick her in a broad role, what's compelling to me is what's the emotional life of a person who is always on? How does that person feel about themselves? Why are they performing all the time? Do they think their only value is in making people laugh? A lot of comedians, and writers for that matter, think their life is their work. You peel the layers back and see the sadness there."
If there's one thing Fogel hopes cinema-goers take away from the film, then it's the importance of enduring, supportive friendship.
"I hope people feel connected to the people in their lives who make them feel accepted and around whom they can really be themselves," she says.
"I hope they want to bring those people closer and closer. If you don't have a friend like that then I hope people find it aspirational, and find the motivation to surround themselves with people who love them for who they are. That's the blessing of friendship."
The Spy Who Dumped Me opens in cinemas tomorrow.