Love is a ride. It’s one with more twists and turns than you ever wanted to sign up for, but when you find it- it’s said to be worth every moment.
Social Animals depicts exactly that, the tiresome, voluntary cycle we all inexplicably take part in. “The movie was inspired by the intense stories of dating in my 20’s,” said director and writer Theresa Bennett. Social Animals is Bennett’s first film, the first draft being written around seven years ago. “I wanted to make a movie about relationships and love that felt honest, we are used to seeing very typical archetypes of love”, said Bennett.
Through the use of Polaroids and video stores and the outdated wax store versus the less painful laser treatments, the story fills the air with nostalgia and everything moving further away from something you once recognized. Josh Radnor, who plays Paul, spoke to us about the underlying motif in the film, “There’s this excitement of the struggle of new relationships, and a theme of Austin [Texas] getting gentrified. We all get gentrified in our own ways, we have to pick ourselves up and clean up the neighborhood, sometimes that’s good news and sometimes it’s not.”
At the start of the movie, we meet Zoe, played by Noël Wells. Zoe is the owner of a failing, “House of Wax”. Alongside her business going downhill is her rent payments, which are long overdue. Living in a trailer, Zoe indulges in multiple one night stand and commemorates their night together with a Polaroid of them. And although her life is a mess, she isn’t alone. Her best friend, played by Carly Chaikin, is also failing throughout her engagement. Convinced he is cheating she looks through his trash as evidence to end things. For Paul, his video emporium is going out of business and his marriage to Jane is crumbling, played by Aya Cash, who would rather hire a male prostitute than be with her husband who “repulses her”.
The story provides a unique, fresh take on how brutal life can get. How things can change to the point where you don’t recognize yourself and you stray a long way from where you once were. It’s not too often we see almost every character collectively failing. In a film composed of 95% women, the female perspective is apparent as the voice behind it. Aya Cash also spoke to the Knockturnal about the female voice, “The department heads are all women, it’s so unusual in this industry, it’s inspiring”. Even more so the plot shows a multiplicity of women with different mindsets. “Its doesn’t just show one type of women, there’s not just one type of way to be a woman,” said Cash, “Representation is important, different women in different stages of their lives, making different choices”. As Jane and Paul have kids together as well, the situation inevitably becomes more complicated.
All the women in the film have different ideas on how to continue their lives and what they have to do. There’s isn’t just one right choice. Wells explained, ‘The movie shows people in multiple ways fucking up their lives, at the end of the movie I hope that people know that it’s okay to be struggling and not really knowing what the right thing to do is.” As Jane encourages Paul to start an affair, he becomes romantically involved with Zoe. After first encountering each other by her lighting her skirt on fire with a joint, they become attracted to one another. Bennett is able to explore the idea of people just stuck in all the wrong relationships. It shows that people get it wrong all the time. Love is messy and Radnor had a message for the audience, “It’s a journey, you don’t have to have all the answers”.
Social Animals is in theaters and on demand now