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To say 2020 was a mixed bag for the entertainment industry is putting it lightly. But for Alison Brie, the year can only be described as a series of tremendous highs and crushing lows.
Bad news first: Despite having completed a portion of filming for its fourth and final season prepandemic, Brie’s Netflix acclaimed series Glow was cancelled by the streamer in the fall. But there was good news, too: Two of Brie’s films, horror flick The Rental and the queer Christmas romantic-comedy Happiest Season, proved to be digital-release hits after forgoing planned theatrical releases.
With The Rental, directed by Brie’s husband Dave Franco, finally making its way to Canadians this week on Amazon Prime Video, Brie spoke with The Globe and Mail’s Barry Hertz about riding the industry’s up-and-down pandemic waves.
One of the quirks of the movie industry’s pandemic shift is that distribution rights get funny territory to territory. Half a year after Americans were able to watch The Rental on video on demand, Canadians are only getting a chance to do so this week. Is it weird for you to still be promoting a movie you must’ve discussed to death?
Kindaaaaa. But because 2020 is such a strange year in general, nothing feels weird any more. I’m just grateful for the distraction. And I do like talking about my work and to talk about a movie that I made with my husband. What’s better than that?
It is a little funny that both The Rental and Happiest Season have been singled out as two pandemic-era success stories, in terms of how you can get attention outside of opening in theatres.
It has been surprisingly wonderful. If anything, the larger point is that it has been hard to reconcile everything that’s been going on in this country and outside it with our work. It is a nice silver lining. For both films, there was a mental adjustment from what we thought the release was going to look like, but I think it brought more eyes to the projects. Because everyone is living their lives inside and maybe has more time on their hands, there is a desire to get obsessed with material. The online chatter, to use a streaming term, for Happiest Season was great. Just to see people digging into a movie and connecting to it on a personal level.
Did you see the same intensity in people picking apart The Rental? The film, following two couples’ intense weekend while staying at a vacation property, does lend itself to a lot of internet theorizing. Although maybe more from people who are against Airbnb rentals ...
I would just like to say that we still stay in Airbnbs! We stayed in one while filming this, which is the longest I’ve ever stayed in one. Of course, I’d go to bed and just scan the place, making sure there weren’t ... well, I don’t want to spoil the movie. But the point of the film is not to take down the home-sharing industry. It’s a bigger point about the way that we ignore things that we know we should fear, especially when it comes to technology and convenience.
I found it an interestingly nihilistic horror movie. There are no lessons, other than there might be a maniac lurking around every corner, so, um, watch out.
What I love about the villain in this movie is that there’s nothing more terrifying than the unknown. I was privy to Dave’s process while he was writing this, and there were discussions about how when you watch a scary movie and the killer has a two-page monologue about their motivations, it becomes comical. There are no rules or reasons here, and it’s more terrifying that way.
What was it like working with Dave, who is not only a first-time director, but one who happens to be your husband?
The process was freeing because we have such an implicit trust already. And I was trying to be easy as an actor. Normally, as my husband knows, if I’m having an insecure actor moment on set, when I get home Dave’s going to hear about it. In this project, that was taken off the table. I’m not going to bother him with any of this, so I’m not going to bother with it myself either.
During publicity for The Rental last year, you mentioned how excited you were about getting back to the fourth season of Glow. How are you now dealing with its cancellation?
Yeah, that didn’t go how I thought it was going to go. You know, I’m all right. But there is just so much more at stake for everyone right now for me to feel too butt-hurt about not getting to do a fourth season of a show that changed my life in so many ways. And as a person, I’ve changed so much since this all started. It makes sense to just move forward.
The Rental is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video starting Jan. 22
This interview has been condensed and edited