'Someone Great,'A Modern Woman Rom-Com, Hits Netflix NPR's Aarti Shahani speaks with Jennifer Robinson, writer and director of the Netflix movie Someone Great.
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'Someone Great,'A Modern Woman Rom-Com, Hits Netflix

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'Someone Great,'A Modern Woman Rom-Com, Hits Netflix

'Someone Great,'A Modern Woman Rom-Com, Hits Netflix

'Someone Great,'A Modern Woman Rom-Com, Hits Netflix

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NPR's Aarti Shahani speaks with Jennifer Robinson, writer and director of the Netflix movie Someone Great.

AARTI SHAHANI, HOST:

"Someone Great," a movie that was recently released on Netflix, is not your standard romantic comedy. It's rom-com for the modern woman. The protagonist, Jenny, just got her dream job. She's moving to San Francisco to work for Rolling Stone. And Nate, her boyfriend of nine years, dumps her. The movie is partly Jenny, played by Gina Rodriguez from "Jane The Virgin," weeping over failed love. But it's mostly her hitting the town with her two best friends, living their best lives.

Jennifer Kaytin Robinson is the writer and director of the film. We talked about the film's diverse cast. And we asked her if having Gina's character occasionally speak in Spanish was in the script from the get-go.

JENNIFER KAYTIN ROBINSON: No, that was honestly a collaboration between Gina and I, where I came in and I was like, listen, I wouldn't know where to put this in and make it feel organic and make it feel correct. And that's just because it's not my experience. And so I wanted - I was like. I hired you. I love you. You're amazing. Bring whatever you want to bring, whatever flavor you want to bring to Jenny, like, go nuts.

SHAHANI: In terms of the dynamic between the three characters on the screen, they're not precious with each other. They're not earnest. They're constantly poking. They're going at each other. They're ruthlessly funny - but zero cattiness.

ROBINSON: Yeah. Thank you for saying that. It was - that was important to me. I feel like I - especially about millennial women and young women, I feel like time and time again, I'm watching a show about women and I'm like, I know you're telling me they're friends, but I don't think they are (laughter). I think they hate each other. And I really wanted to make sure that, even in the moments where they are coming for each other and coming for one another and upset, that it's rooted in a place of, like, very deep love.

And that's how I am with my friends. It's never - I'm never like - it's never malicious. And I think that there can be malice in - and competition in movies about women where, you know, you need that moment where they all fall apart and they all yell at each other and they're really mad. And I just didn't want that for this.

SHAHANI: Something that I thought was really interesting about each of them is that they didn't have standard sexual hang-ups. You know, she and her friends don't talk about the rules or wait till your third date. And these are women who are about to be 30, who plenty of people would say, hey, you should be thinking about marriage, tying the knot, settling down. What you did there with female sexuality, erasing the hang-ups, was that a bit of fantasy where you'd like to see women land eventually? Or is that what you think is really just happening?

ROBINSON: I think both. You know, I think it's where I'd like to see women land in entertainment. I think that we have so many shows about these dudes that, you know, they have sex, and they have sex with, like, these impossibly hot women. And they're like figuring themselves out. But, like, they're - they are allowed to do all of these things and contemplate love. But, like, they're doing it through the lens of, you know, kind of like making these sexual mistakes or, you know, going on these sexual adventures. And no one ever talks. And there's no rules there.

Like, I'm just so tired of watching sex through the male lens, especially the millennial male lens in that way. And it's not that it's not great. I just like - women have sex like that too. And I also think that, you know, for me, I think the idea of just like - do you. Just do what you want. Like, I think that these rules, these, you know, wait and don't text him and if you're too needy and you're too this and you're too that - it's like too blank. Like, there's there's so many - like, you're either not enough or you're too.

And I think we - I think entertainment kind of perpetuates that for women. And it's - and when women start to see that over and over again in film and television, they start to take on that subconsciously. And that's part of how they see themselves and how they see sex and how they see the world and all of these things. And I really wanted to shatter that because women should be out there and feeling like they can be as sexually fluid as they want to be. And there should be no shame attached to that.

SHAHANI: On a much heavier note - and this gets to the - what I think you did really beautifully in the movie is mixing that kind of like, you know, fun, thrilling, let's live our best lives with, like, real emotion and real pain. There's this one scene where Jenny is having another one of her flashbacks to the time that she was with her man. They're sitting right beside each other. Her boyfriend Nate is there. He's right next to her. It's like their knees are touching.

And you can just feel she wants him to like put his arms out around her and hold her, but he's just slumped there inside of himself, right? He's got his walls up. And she's pleading with him. Let's have a listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SOMEONE GREAT")

GINA RODRIGUEZ: (As Jenny Young) I don't want you to end us. Please don't end us.

LAKEITH STANFIELD: (As Nate Davis) No, baby. I don't want to end us. I love you.

RODRIGUEZ: (As Jenny Young) I love you. I'm sorry about San Francisco. I can't turn down this opportunity, but we can try long distance.

STANFIELD: (As Nate Davis) You know it's not all about that.

SHAHANI: So what kind of a guy is Nate?

ROBINSON: You know, I think Nate is someone that doesn't know who he is. And I think that he is OK with that. But I think the juxtaposition of not - of kind of being, you know, someone that goes with the flow and, like, lives in the wind and all of that, And Jenny's, like, very, very, very specific, you know, driven nature. It is very challenging as a woman who is - has her own agency and knows what she wants to not make the men that she is with feel smaller.

And I think that Jenny is someone that was not going to make herself feel smaller to make him feel better. And so it's not that Nate is a bad guy. He's really not. Like, I think it's just - they were right at a time. They grew up together. And I think that you start to, you know - comfortability masks and overshadows kind of, like, deeper issues until something, you know, presents itself where you're like, OK, we can't ignore this anymore.

SHAHANI: Jennifer, in your own life, do you feel like you've had an experience where you try to make yourself smaller to make your partner feel bigger to salvage your relationship?

ROBINSON: Yeah, I do. I do. I think that I've done it multiple times. I've recently been through something that, you know, has caused me to look into myself and to sit with myself and to be alone for the first time and to be - you know, to choose myself for the first time in - I want to say most of my 20s I was in relationships. And so, you know, and this all happened after the movie was made and done.

So it was - it's been a very interesting experience to be talking about this film and be, you know, having this film out in the world while you're going through a breakup because it's like you spend all day and you're, like, smiling and you're excited. And you're talking about this thing. And your life's great. And then, you know, you're at home in bed and you have those quiet moments where, you know, you're crying and you're sitting with yourself.

And, you know, you're really thinking about, you know, I feel like I'm going through my own version of "Someone Great," where it's like, you think about - what were those moments? And were there signs? And was it me? Was it him? Was it us? You know, all of those things that I feel like - especially women do. And it's been a very interesting time.

SHAHANI: Your rom-com is an unconventional rom-com. Do you think it would have gotten made if you were stuck to the option of big Hollywood studios as opposed to Netflix?

ROBINSON: No, I don't. I don't think it would have gotten made at a big Hollywood studio, definitely not with the cast that it has. I think that there - I think Netflix was the only place that would make the movie the way that you see it on screen. I think that there is the - you know, the indie financing, you know, very low-budget version of the movie that could have existed, that would have been put together and would have given me a similar amount of creative freedom. But there is no place that was going to make a movie that looks like and feels like, you know, the studio movies that we are - that we are used to in the genre but that was going to let me tell the story that I was telling.

SHAHANI: And in terms of your experience and actually finding the market opportunity for it via Netflix, do you believe that the markets opened up the, opportunities have opened up and there is more space for voices that want to depart from the standard script?

ROBINSON: I - yes, I 100% do. I feel like we are feeling, like, a real sea change in the industry and in the stories that people are, you know, telling and want to tell and are being able to tell and the openness of the people at the top to, you know, want to open their doors and open their wallets to those stories.

SHAHANI: That's a very optimistic note to end on. Jennifer Kaytin Robinson is the writer and director of "Someone Great" on Netflix. Thanks for joining us here.

ROBINSON: Thank you so much.

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