Monday, September 23

Romantic comedy movie “˜Breaking Upwards’ to show tonight at Melnitz Hall

The story of the conception of the film, written during director Daryl Wein's breakup with actress Zoe Lister-Jones, sounds like a romantic comedy plot in itself.

The story of the conception of the film, written during director Daryl Wein's breakup with actress Zoe Lister-Jones, sounds like a romantic comedy plot in itself. IFC Films

When director Daryl Wein began having problems with his girlfriend, he didn’t turn to Ben & Jerry’s or a long night with Jose Cuervo. He decided nearly immediately that he had the perfect material to write a screenplay about his own breakup with girlfriend and actress Zoe Lister-Jones.

“I thought it was so funny the way Zoe and I were communicating with each other about breaking up,” Wein said. “We were just so hyper-communicative and kind of laughing about it even though it was a sad moment for us, so I immediately started writing some ideas down. Zoe obviously was weirded out by that, so there were a lot of issues of exploitation. … I just wanted to use what we were doing for the inspiration.”

The film, “Breaking Upwards,” deals with the difficulties of ending a long-term relationship and will screen tonight at Melnitz Hall, followed by a question-and-answer session with Wein and Lister-Jones.

Lister-Jones, who said she can now laugh about the movie’s beginning, described the film in similar terms.

“It’s loosely based on our relationship. Two years into what is now a six-year long relationship, we entered into an open relationship and we started breaking up very slowly,” Lister-Jones said. “We were introducing all these crazy rules like not seeing each other on certain days but seeing each other on others and not talking on the days off, then slowly introducing other people.”

Wein worked on the script during the days he did not see Lister-Jones.

“It was entirely Daryl’s idea,” Lister-Jones said. “What we were doing, he thought was a really funny premise for a romantic comedy and so he wanted to start writing while we were living it. … The details are fictionalized, and we wrote it with a friend of ours, Peter Duchan, who also lends a lot of perspective, so it was loosely autobiographical.”

Though Lister-Jones eventually signed on to help write the script, she said it was definitely an unnerving premise at first.

“It was hard not to take what he and Peter had written personally, and a lot of discussion ensued, but ultimately it was a really therapeutic process, I think, writing it together,” Lister-Jones said.

Along with co-writing the script, Lister-Jones and Wein play variations of themselves in this story about a young couple in New York straying from monogamy toward their gradual breakup.

“I think to be young and in a serious relationship in this day and age brings a lot of questions into play,” Wein said. “We don’t have any answers but we do bring up a lot of questions, which I think is important.”

Wein said he realizes that their situation is by no means unique.

“The issues are really universal,” Wein said.

This seems to be true across UCLA. Fourth-year UCLA psychology and Spanish student Zander Bice has experienced the problems of a long-term relationship himself.

“I guess the hardest thing is communication,” Bice said. “You have to put in a lot of effort.”

Lister-Jones and Wein, who are now back together in a monogamous relationship, found the experience to be oddly helpful in dealing with their own issues.

“We’ve talked so much about this movie and this relationship, that everything’s really out in the open now,” Wein said.

Though the filmmaking process was likely difficult, the end result is a decidedly optimistic look at the idea of relationships and love. But though it may be lighthearted, “Breaking Upwards” is not meant to be fluff.

“It’s a very real story dealing with real issues, and it’s grittier than most romantic comedies, but it still approaches it with a lot of comedy and levity. It’s a lot of fun,” Wein said.

Lister-Jones agreed and thinks that the younger demographic will find the film particularly relatable.

“We’ve had a great response to it, especially in the college community, and I’m really excited to bring it to UCLA,” Lister-Jones said.

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