Written and directed by Cat Rhinehart, Brand New Old Love tells the story of Charlie (Arturo Castro) and Hannah (Aya Cash), two former high school friends who decide to make good on a promise they made to one another to get married if they were both single at age 30. Despite the fact that they haven’t seen each other in many years, Charlie and Hannah dive into their new life with both feet with enthusiasm… until they realize that they may not even like each other, let alone love one another.
Seeking to write a film that usurps the stereotypes of the rom-com, Rhinehart believes that the genre was influenced heavily by the tropes associated within Disney films.
“I enjoyed those growing up and I feel like Disney films begat the Rom-com,” she argues. “It’s kind of the same audience with a different age. So, I grew up watching the fairytales and [thought] that’s going to happen to me one day… [But when I got] a little older, I [realized] that’s not reality… I enjoy watching them but… I wanted a little more reality injected into them. So, I decided to make a movie that I would want to watch… I want to watch something that’s enjoyable but doesn’t lie to me. I think millennials especially–or maybe every generation–watch these things and question it… I just thought it’d play with the Hollywood trope but just make it a little less insulting to my intelligence or just [have] a little more honesty injected into it and still stay in that vein.”
Despite the film’s emphasis on the relationship between Charlie and Hannah, Old Love has multiple relationships on display as every character seems embattled in romance in a different manner. In doing so, Rhinehart wanted to peel back the view that love is something you can take for granted.
“I think I want to communicate that it requires effort,” she begins. “It’s not a fantasy and I didn’t want to feed a fantasy. I think you can have an incredible loving, happy relationship, but it does take real communication and real effort. You can’t be lazy in it and you have to do it every day… It’s wonderful to have a teammate and a partner and I think that human beings thrive very well that way. You [can] have someone who has your back but it doesn’t happen naturally. You can’t spot someone from across the room, make eyes at them, fall in love, get married, and then everything’s perfect. Everyday can’t be a love story and that’s okay. It’s okay to argue about whose turn it is to take out the trash. You need to communicate with each other and work at it.”
Based on the childhood game of ‘having a back-up’, Old Love connects with a common experience to many. When asked why this idea is so ubiquitous, Rhinehart believes it’s because of our subconscious fear of being alone.
“I think a lot of it is because we’re kind of subtly or not so subtly fed these messages through like the entertainment and media that we watch,” Rhinehart says. “One is the fear of being alone. It’s in our head [that] it’s better to be with this person who we get along with than to be alone, which I don’t necessarily agree with. Then, there’s also this kind of fantastical idea of ‘wouldn’t it make the greatest story? What a fun little story that we were friends when we were younger and then we didn’t think we could be together now, but we decided that if we’re older and still single we’ll get together and then it’d be like these Hollywood romantic fantasy stories.’ I think it scratches that itch of like, I want that Hollywood story.”
In recent years, much has been written about the disappearance of the rom-com from cinemas. While there have been somewhat of a resurgence in the genre recently, Rhinehart says that their style has had to change in response to their perceived stereotypes.
Says Rhinehart, “I don’t see as many of them [anymore]. I was just reading an article last week about how this kind of romantic comedies [with Katherine Heigl, Julia Roberts or Helen Hunt] that we had throughout the ’90s aren’t really being made as much… From what I can tell, the way that the romantic comedy has changed is to make the female character less of a stereotype. It’s always fun to see the male want to commit as well. It was always just the woman who wants to commitment and the man who doesn’t. She’s kind of naggy and doesn’t have her own career. This is the only thing that she wants with her life. I’m just giving a little more dimension since the female character in general in films is slowly changing. I actually worried about that a lot, to be honest… I was trying to write a classic romantic comedy and I wondered [how I was affected] by these classic stories.”
Having only been married for a few weeks herself, Rhinehart can look at her project with fresh eyes. However, rather than make changes to what she’s already made, she would much rather begin a new project based on her experiences.
“I don’t want to look back and make changes, but I do want to make something else,” she claims. “The whole process of having a wedding was really interesting to me. It has been. You kind of get lost in the planning and that whole industry seems like a little bit of a scam. The expectations are pretty ridiculous for the things that you’re supposed to do and have but then also now we’re married and what’s different? There’s just always things that I’m paying attention to and writing down. Everything I make, I’m hoping that it strikes a chord with someone else. That’s what’s so fun about comedy because when people watch it and they say, ‘That’s me too!’”
Taking on the dual role of both writer and director for her first feature, Rhinehart loved the opportunity to share her story and work with such a great cast. Though, asked if she had a preference between the two, she felt that writing offers less pressure than the quick decision-making required by directing.
“I think I prefer writing,” she answers. “There’s less pressure in writing. You’re writing for yourself, at that point.There’s no deadline. You have time. You can make mistakes and you’re in the comfort of your own home. [When you’re] directing, you’re onstage in a way. People are watching you and you have to look like you know what you’re doing. Even if in the moment you don’t, you have to make decisions no matter what… And this was my first time directing. I’ve directed smaller things but never with actors that were of this caliber. So, to be honest, I was terrified at first that they would see through me or think that I was some sort of fraud. There’s all these insecurities, and inadequacies that creep up. It was an amazing experience. It was a really positive film set and we had a great time, but I was still very nervous at first. [With directing], it’s really putting yourself out there versus, the safety when you’re just in your room. You can’t really make any mistakes in front of people that at that point.”
For full audio of our conversation with Cat, click here.
Brand New Old Love is now available on VOD.