Many people are saying MISS YOU ALREADY, directed by Catherine Hardwicke (TWILIGHT, THIRTEEN) and starring Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette, is this generation’s BEACHES. And while this film is certainly touching and emotionally draining, I found it to be a quite difference experience from the classic Bette Midler/Barbara Hershey tear-jerker. BEACHES is one of my favorite films of all time, combining the three things I love most: a musical(ish), friendship, and awesome leading ladies. While MISS YOU ALREADY has all of those elements: friendship, awesome female performances, and a great soundtrack, I found it to be a lot more realistic than its predecessor.
Whereas BEACHES only showed Hershey’s demise from cancer at the end of the film, MISS YOU ALREADY introduces “the big C” pretty quickly in the first act, and shows how the relationship between Milly (Collette) and Jess (Barrymore) is affected by such a jarring diagnosis. At times, this film is shockingly realistic, and not only because Toni Collette actually shaved her head (on camera!).
In many cancer films, the character with the diagnosis is treated as a pitiful victim. Not so, in MISS YOU ALREADY. Milly is given so many layers, as opposed to just being labeled “cancer patient”. In fact, her character is given an enormous amount of edge, that corresponds with the character we got to know before the diagnosis. When she uses the cancer card too much, Jess is not afraid to call her a “cancer bully”. And even when she ****SPOILER ALERT**** has an extramarital affair, it was so much more than “cheating”. She wanted to feel sexy again, with a handsome man that didn’t pity her for having cancer.
No surprise, Toni Collette is PHENOMENAL in this film. If there were any justice in the world, she would definitely be in the mix for an Oscar nomination. Collete exudes likability and charisma. So much so, you love Milly, even though she makes some stupid decisions and really hurts those she loves. Collette’s performance is just as layered as the writing. If I have it my way, she will definitely be in the running for a nomination in the Washington, DC Area Film Critics (WAFCA) Awards! Drew Barrymore, one of my favorite actresses since I was a kid, also gave a beautiful performance. Her character (and Drew herself) is the friend we all want to have and to be; one that isn’t scared to tell the truth but is also extremely supportive, even when it’s hard.
At the Middleburg Film Festival, Lauren Veneziani (DCFilmGirl.com) and I were able to sit down with Catherine Hardwicke for an interview. We had the most amazing conversation about her career and learned so many awesome trivia facts about MISS YOU ALREADY. Catherine was an absolute joy to talk to, and continued to talk to us about the movie even when our time was up. It is obvious that she loves the movie as much as we did, and I was so excited to hear some behind the scenes stories, which I included below. Lauren and I also met Drew Barrymore this week at her book signing at Sixth and I in DC. We told her we were film critics and loved the movie. The first thing out of Drew’s mouth was, “Did you cry?!?” I informed her, “Oh, you know, only the last 1/3 of the film!”
Check out MISS YOU ALREADY in theaters this Friday!
- Catherine Hardwicke is a huge supporter of women in film. Not only is MISS YOU ALREADY directed by a woman, it was also written by a woman and stars two women in lead roles. To say this passes the Bechdel test is an understatement.
- Toni Collette actually shaved her head for the film ON CAMERA. “She really shaved her head on camera. Right there. She literally shaved her head on the spot.”
- Because they shot the film out of order, it required a lot of charting to get the wigs and hair correct. And can I just say, the wigs in this film are AMAZING! “I made the most elaborate chart. It looks like it popped out of THE MATRIX. [Toni] shaved her head on about day 5. Sometimes she has her real hair, like the long hair, and we had to make a wig of her character’s “real hair”. Then we had to make a wig of the wig. Then we had to make a wig of the shorter hair. Some of it is her real hair growing back after she shaved it. Jacqueline Bissett also has a wig. Her hair is normally brown… all of the timing had to dovetail together.”
- When directing an emotional scene, Catherine ensured the atmosphere on the set was intimate for the actors. One grip, who was a notorious ball scratcher, was asked to hang out in another place during the scenes so the actors would not be distracted. “We try to recreate living the scene. It’s just as emotional for me. I never work over at ‘video village’. They give me a little monitor to keep around my neck so I can be looking at [the actor] and then looking down at the framing to make sure I have them in the shot. That way I can see what the actors are really feeling and whether we were really in the moment.”
- The hot guy Milly hooks up with in the film is actually Tyson Ritter, the lead singer of All-American Rejects! “He had writer’s block. All-American Rejects hadn’t had a new song in about two years. He hadn’t been able to write a song. After the sex scene with Toni in the basement, he went and wrote a song that night. That is the song that is in the movie in that scene… Then we decided to make a video for the song Tyson did [“There’s A Place”], an All-American Rejects video. I directed it and Toni’s in it too.”
- Toni ALSO sang a song in the film, “Hello Halo”. “Then you have the other sex scene in the B&B. Toni’s husband wrote that song and she sings that song in that scene; so they both sing a song in each sex scene.”
- Speaking of, the soundtrack is AWESOME. Diane Warren wrote a song. Joan Jett wrote a song. And Catherine also received permission from Michael Stipe of REM to use “Losing My Religion” in the film. He is a friend of Toni’s.
- Drew Barrymore came onto the project with only a few days to spare. She and Toni only met about a week before filming, but hit it off immediately. You would think they had known each other for years.
- The scene of the two characters at the moors was based on a real trip Catherine took with a friend. “It was so beautiful. I had gone there with my friend like that four years ago. If you ever get a chance to go, it’s beautiful. We wrapped and since we only had 30 days to shoot, Toni and Drew had to go back to their lives and next movie. And we went back to the moors and got a drone guy to go with us to shoot the aerial shots because that was cheaper than a helicopter. Also, that isn’t Drew and Toni. The wide shots of the drone flying over is my assistant, who is about the same height as Toni, and the production manager, who is about the same height as Drew. I’m Toni in one shot. I’m Jacqueline Bisset in one shot… from behind. Whatever it takes! Hopefully you can’t tell.”
- There were two scenes in the movie that Catherine shot with her iPhone 5. They even recorded sound on it, that was also put in the movie. Got any guesses?