The lives of Emma (Jenny Slate) and Peter (Charlie Day) come crashing down when boyfriend Noah (Scott Eastwood) and long-time girlfriend Anne (Gina Rodriguez), respectively, suddenly break things off. Their worlds come crashing down until the two happen to meet in the stairwell of the office building they both happen to work in. Together, the Atlantan 30-somethings devise a plan to break-up Noah and Anne’s new flings so they can win back their true loves. Amid plenty of hijinks, alcohol and Instagram stalking, Emma and Peter grow close and become a key part of one another’s second coming-of-age. Ahead of the movie’s Feb. 11 premiere, LA Confidential chatted more about I Want You Back with writers Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger.
After the inciting break ups, Emma and Peter really hit the ground running after a drunken, therapeutic karaoke session. “You Oughta Know” is the scene’s big moment. Was that song an intentional choice?
IA: All the songs are very intentional. We just sat down with Charlie and Jenny and Jason Orley, our director, and talked about like, “What are you guys excited about singing?” And then what are just the all-time great breakup songs that would be right for this karaoke session? And I think that Alanis, a lot of Alanis really, could have applied, but “You Oughta Know” might be the ultimate.
Obviously social media causes Emma and Peter a lot of turmoil as they watch the loves of their lives move on to new relationships through Instagram posts. However, it was interesting that even with the popularity of dating apps, everyone actually meets in person. Was that a purposeful decision?
EB: I think giving the movie that balance was very intentional. We wanted it to feel current and of this world, but we also wanted it to have that sort of classic feel to it where you could watch this movie at any point in time and drop into it and have it resonate with you on an emotional level. So I think we sort of lead with that, like let's have our technology and make it feel of this world, but also people still meet in real life sometimes, so let's have that too.
As part of the mission to break up middle school teachers Logan and Anne, Emma finesses her way into volunteering for the school production of Little Shop of Horrors. The result is a hilarious, yet emotional scene where Emma steps in as an understudy to sing “Suddenly Seymour” with one of the kids. Can you walk us through writing that scene?
EB: It's really just about having that balance of obviously this woman is at an absurd moment in her life and it's the least expected thing and we wanted it to be very, very funny that she's found herself in the midst of this production. But you also have to really feel for her and you have to really care. And to Jenny's credit, it's no easy task that she pulled it off so beautifully whereone moment you feel like she's making you laugh so hard and then within the same moment, she's making you feel so much. And that was always the hope with the scene that it's absurd and crazy and funny, but also you genuinely care about her and what she's going through in this moment.
What was it like writing the threesome scene? I can imagine it was difficult to balance Anne’s uncomfortableness and Logan's understated enthusiasm, and then Jenny Slate just being hilarious.
IA: It was definitely a balancing act because it's three people entering into a potentially sexual situation where both of the women are not super excited about it. But so it was very important for us to make sure that they felt like they were in charge of that scene and it stayed funny. And that was something we talked a lot with our three actors and we rehearsed it with them and Jason quite a lot to really make sure that it was staying on the side of comedy and that the women were really in charge.
Let’s talk about the finale. Did you always plan to have that full-circle moment?
EB: Without saying too much, that was always sort of the ending of the movie. I think we knew early on that was exactly the way we wanted to end it and that felt right to us.
Ultimately, what experience and what message do you hope audiences take away from watching I Want You Back?
IA: I just hope people will take a couple of hours and laugh and believe in love. We have been through it. It has been such a tough couple of years. It's still so scary right now where we are as a country, and just to be able to enjoy a love story with these hilarious six performers. That's really what I'm hoping for here.
EB: I think we hope that it's a very hopeful and very joyful movie. And as Isaac is alluding to, it's easy to not feel either of those things a lot of the time right now. So for a couple of hours and maybe even a couple hours. After you've watched the movie. We hope we can give people that.
This interview has been edited and condensed. I Want you Back is now streaming on Amazon Prime.
Photography by: Courtesy Amazon Studios