What would happen if after commenting “Mom” on your favorite celebrity’s Instagram, she actually, you know, became your mother? The hyperbolic answer lies in Carrie Brownstein’s new short film, The Realest Real.
For her directorial debut with Humberto Leon and Carol Lim of Kenzo, Brownstein—who was also part of the designers’ buzzed-about Opening Ceremony show—cheekily pokes fun at the often wild and crazy social media world. The superb cast includes Mahershala Ali, Natasha Lyonne, Rowan Blanchard, and the star, Laura Harrier. (Kim Gordon also makes a brief appearance.)
The acting is the focal point, but the clothes don’t—or, rather, can’t—go unnoticed. The actors were clad in Fall 2016 Kenzo pieces that were shown both on and off the runway. The inspiration for the collection goes hand-in-hand with the premise of the movie, Leon tells us. “The collection was about celebrating fandom… it was about the Beatles mania, Elvis mania, Morrissey mania,” he says. His and Lim’s own adoration for Brownstein’s work is also how the film came to be. “We approached this project because we’re a fan of Carrie’s, and it was exciting to see her take our thing and twist it into her world.”
And twist it she does. We got to sit down with Brownstein ahead of the release to talk about what intrigues her about cultural nuances, the casting process for the film, and what celebrity she thinks has the most dedicated legion of fans. Read our interview and watch the film in its entirety below.
I loved the film, I thought it was really great. What excited you most about collaborating with Humberto and Carol?
I’m a fan of their work, and I like how accessible and outside the box they think in terms of expression and participation. I think they don’t perceive fashion as a rarified entity, I think they see it as part of everyday lives, as part of real people, and not separate from politics, or feeling, or populism. It’s so entrenched—and I really like that—and so I’ve just been an admirer of where they take each of their shows and each of their projects. I was really excited to work with them.
The cast for the film is very diverse. What was that hiring process like?
Diversity has become such a conversation, and I was like, “This is not hard.” I wanted Mahershala Ali, I think he’s brilliant on House of Cards. I just think it’s so easy to make a cast that represents how our society is. It makes me mad when people don’t do that because it’s actually so easy to bring in people, there are so many talented people. He’s such a great actor, I knew he would be great as the minister, being able to carry this duality of mischief and also sternness. Laura, I was not familiar with but I met with her. Everyone was really excited, she had just been cast in the new Spider-Man, and she was just so bright and smart and ready to just dive into this. I was like, “Okay, you’re about to be huge but can you do this little film?”
And then Natasha is a friend of mine, and a friend of Kenzo’s. Rowan, I had never met but I think she’s a very dynamic young woman and she’s an activist. We talked about it from the get-go, that the cast wasn’t going to be a white-washed cast but [diversity] was never a thing that we butted up against, you know, we were just kind of like, “Yeah, why isn’t everything like that?”
What intrigues you most about poking fun at little cultural nuances, like you commonly do on Portlandia?
I think there’s this point where a moment becomes awkward and where it goes from normal to uncomfortable, and that’s the moment that I want to stretch out. So, in this film, something that seems mundane and off-the-cuff and a very benign interaction, I wanted to slow down and force people to sort of live inside. To me, those are always the most interesting ways of interacting with people. Those are the times when we learn the most about ourselves or another human. That minute you feel uncomfortable and want to get up and leave the room, I’m like, “Let’s just stay there and see what happens.”
Obviously, the film focuses on fandom. Out of all of the celebrities, who do you think has the most dedicated legion of fans?
Beyoncé, 100 percent. Her birthday is September 4, and one crazy thing about her birthday... I had a dream. I’ve never had a dream about Beyoncé—I do listen to her music a lot—but I totally had a dream that we were on a waterslide team together, like a cool relay team. I woke up and checked Twitter pretty soon after and it’s her birthday. Like, she is so powerful, she invaded my consciousness. And [her birthday] was basically being celebrated like a holiday, and I just was like, “Who has fans like this?” She deserves all the adoration. I love the “Becky with the good hair” thing; it was kind of scary how the fans were going after everyone. Like, holy shit, she’s covered. People would join the military if all you had to do was defend Beyoncé. People would be like, “I’m signing up.” That’s fucking cool.