The film "Always Shine" revolves around two friends Anna and Beth. Both women are young, pretty and blonde. Both are aspiring actresses.
But that's where the similarities seem to end.
Anna is tough, fierce but her career isn't going much of anywhere. Beth is a frail ingenue and her career seems to be on fire.
The two go on vacation together in Big Sur to reconnect, but it doesn't take long before Anna's envy rises to the surface.
"Always Shine" is a riveting thriller about the perils of competition and the complexities of being a woman.
The film was directed by Sophia Takal and Actress Mackenzie Davis plays Anna. The two spoke with Alex Cohen about the movie and the darker side of female friendship.
This film is a real exploration, in a lot of ways, of what it means to be a woman. Can you talk a little bit about what that means to you?
Sophia: "For me, growing up and through my twenties, I felt that I had been fed this very specific idea of what it meant to be a woman. This really small box of femininity that I was told I had to fit into and those were images that I received from movies and magazines and television shows that said I had to look a certain way, be super skinny, be very shy, unopinionated...
Through my twenties, I was trying to be an actress and having a really hard time coping with the success of my other female friends who I felt embodied this idea of femininity more effortlessly. That's sort of where the idea for making 'Always Shine' came from, which was this struggle that I was starting to examine and explore critically and also through talking to other women who said that they had similar feelings. Feeling like they do not fit in to this idea of the right way of being a woman..."
Which seems to be amplified in Hollywood, right?
Mackenzie: "I think a really clever thing that Larry Levine, who wrote the screenplay did is, use the actress identity sort of as a trojan horse to fit all of these other messy parts of being a woman into one sort of archetypal package because actresses are required to present a very complete clean version of femininity."
That whole notion of women and how competitive we can be with one another, what are your feelings about that?
Mackenzie: "I think...the movie as a whole is emblematic of a culture that creates this idea of a scarcity of opportunity which makes people competitive. I mean, it's a great capitalistic system and it makes people competitive and to feel like if somebody has something that they want, then there's only one of those and they need to destroy that person or develop a horrible wart of indignation. I think there's a really strategic element to female competition...competition for mates, competition for professional opportunities, for social opportunities..."
That's kind of the uglier side of female friendship and is that okay to talk about in this day and age?
Sophia: I think it's really important to talk about the ugly things inside of us. One thing in particular, I think women feel a lot of pressures to be perfect and to never have any negative emotions whatsoever. And I think we have a lot of negative emotions and I tend to suppress those negative feelings in order to seem perfect. But I think that the most important thing is to talk about these feelings that we're ashamed of or that we think are ugly or despicable and to just acknowledge them and breathe through them and make art out of them if we are privlidged enough to do so.
The only way to move through and to be supportive and supported, for me, is to really just acknowledge and not judge the bad things. Like, if I'm feeling jealous of Mackenzie to just be like 'That's just my jealousy popping up and that's okay, I'm allowed to feel jealous.' And then I'm able to connect with her on a deeper level than if I was just pretending that that jealousy didn't exist and having to just like, act."
To hear the full interview, click the blue play button above.
Answers have been edited for time and clarity.