By Don Simpson | December 11, 2013
On one fateful night, Allie (Trieste Kelly Dunn) discovers that Brooklyn is not as safe as she would like to believe. While walking alone in her own neighborhood, she is brutally attacked; the next thing Allie knows, she is sitting bloodied and bruised on her sofa, giving a statement to the local police. Allie is ready to leave Brooklyn as quickly as possible and Austin signifies a city of friendly, happy people and a safe(r) place to live.
Upon arriving in Austin, Allie realizes that even this laid-back locale cannot tame her raging paranoia. Allie needs something more than just caring friends and perpetual sunshine in order to feel safe. So, while in Texas, Allie does as Texans do, she buys a gun. The pistol is empowering and comforting. Allie is finally in control, but her perception of control is totally misguided.
Geoff Marslett’s Loves Her Gun studies the fine line between rational and irrational fear, as well as what it means to feel safe. Allie believes that it is better to be feared than to fear, but the philosophy of adopting the role of the aggressor is obviously not a feasible survival strategy for our society at large. Not everyone can be an aggressor; there will always be victims and many of them will be innocent. So, Loves Her Gun contemplates the role that guns should play in our society. In the wrong hands, the power of a gun can give someone too much control. The Constitutional right to bear arms is not intended to take away the safety and freedom of others; it is certainly not intended to make gun-owners the judge, jury and executioner.
I sat down with writer-director Geoff Marslett and discussed Loves Her Gun over some burritos on the eve of the film’s first post-SXSW screenings in Austin. The film’s distributor Devolver is hosting two screenings at the Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter Lane on Wednesday (December 11, 2013) as well as several other upcoming screenings around the United States (including a theatrical run in New York City starting on January 10, 2014). The film will also be available on VOD.
Don Simpson: A lot of people have called Loves Her Gun a message-oriented or political film. At what point of the process did the message begin to take shape?
Geoff Marslett: Not until it premiered at South by Southwest (SXSW) 2013. When I co-wrote it with Lauren [Modery] I knew that it would create some controversy because I was trying to create a lead character whom the audience could sympathize with and understand but would not always like. Allie makes some decisions that I think a lot of audience members would disagree with, but I hoped that they would always realize how she got to the point of making those decisions.
As we got closer to the release of the film, gun violence became the biggest topic around. Since the story does involve Allie buying a gun, that became the main thing people focused on about the film. That was good and bad. It created a buzz of controversy but it also turned the focus away from Allie as a character and onto the subject of whether the film is pro- or anti-gun.
I think this actually became an even more controversial film than those that are more opinionated in terms of their stance on gun control. The gun violence in Loves Her Gun was designed to make people think about how they feel about gun control, then throw those thoughts away and rethink it. Whether you are pro- or anti-gun, I hope this film at least prompts you to stop and think about why you feel the way that you do. Some people may change their minds, while others will stick with their same opinion. That’s okay. I didn’t want this film to say that guns are right or guns are wrong. I wanted it to point out why some people feel like they need guns, and to show some of the good things and bad things that can happen as a result of having a gun. I wanted it to be a discussion on why people would or wouldn’t own guns. It shows responsible gun use and irresponsible gun use. At this point this film can never be separated from that debate.
As far as the gun violence issue in this country is concerned… Individual incidents of domestic violence or someone accidentally shooting someone else or a kid getting a hold of a gun and hurting themselves seems much more rampant than mass shootings. Changing the way we approach and treat guns can really affect those types of incidents. Gun education is one of those things that drastically reduces a person’s tendencies to make mistakes with guns. It would also be great to see more unified gun laws, rather than having such drastically different laws in each state.
DS: If any one part of Loves Her Gun is seen as being heavy-handed or opinionated, it would probably be the closing scene, specifically the precise moment where you chose to end the film.
GM: There are a lot of things that I could have done with the ending. For me, this film was always about Allie and how she deals with her fight or flight response. The first part of the film deals with her flight response. She runs away from everything. She runs away from commitment, from problems, from things people are doing to her… Then, she becomes empowered. That empowerment is good and bad. In a physical fight, there is often an inequality between men and women. Guns are able to level that playing field. When Allie experiences that sense of strength and power, she switches from her flight mode into a fight mode. What I really wanted to show in that final scene — without giving anything away — is how only changing the way you react to things without changing the inherent problem will not solve the problem. I wanted the final scene to be about Allie making a decision, not about the repercussions of that decision. Everything that happens after the film ends is someone else’s story. This is where Allie’s story ends. What happens to Allie afterwards? What happens to any of the other characters? I am not sure. This is about Allie’s final decision, not what comes afterwards. People may attach a lot of weight to what we are saying in that final note as our message on gun control, and that was definitely not my intent. I would rather the issues stay out of this and the ending just be about Allie.
Even the title… The idea behind Loves Her Gun is about how the gun replaces things in her life. People read the title and they think its going to be some revenge fantasy flick with a lot of shooting, but this film is more about Allie’s relationship with the gun, not her gunning people down. This is about Allie’s relationships with other people and where she finds the support and confidence that she needs. This isn’t Machine Gun Preacher.
DS: To me, Loves Her Gun is about how people deal with fear and how fear is used to manipulate and control people.
GM: I agree. You are seeing the film that we intended as we were writing the script. This is about Allie’s fears, and they are not always rational fears, but the fears that she has are very real. Allie might not even know what some of the fears are, she just knows that she is scared. Every time something happens, it causes Allie’s fears to snowball.
DS: Loves Her Gun seems to compare and contrast rational with irrational fears, some of Allie’s fears even seem downright fantastical.
GM: People ask why I put the attackers from the beginning of the film in the weird masks… I want that element to exist, for the audience to not always know what is real and what might just be in Allie’s head because she is scared. I want people to even start to question Allie’s memories and feelings. We remember things the way we remember them, not necessarily the way that they actually happened.
DS: It is interesting how Loves Her Gun uses Brooklyn and Austin in terms of how we perceive safety and security in relation to where we live.
GM: Brooklyn and Austin are two cities that people often migrate between. Brooklyn is the big city that people might not always associate with being scared, but it might be seen as being too crowded or expensive, so those people move to Austin. It seems like every film that is set in Austin turns out to be a crazy love letter to the city. Austin becomes this great hippie place that’s magical — we have tacos and the Alamo Drafthouse… That’s true, but that’s also not true. Bad things do happen in Austin. There are depressed and poor people here; people who are addicted to drugs, people who are having a hard time. It can be gritty. It is part of the south and part of Texas, and has the negative connotations having to do with that. Not to disparage the city. I love living in Austin. I just feel like I have never seen a film that feels like the real Austin and what it is like — day in and day out — to live here. So, the film shows a side of Austin that can be a lot of fun, such as when they go tubing, but it can also get really dark because Austin isn’t perfect.
There is also an intentional shift in pacing, which some critics took issue with but I still stand by that decision. Everything moves so quickly for Allie in Brooklyn; once she leaves, the film slows down into this sort of happy place. It almost turns into a romantic comedy. When people run away from their problems, everything always seems way better when they first get to a new place. They have successfully escaped their problems, they are gone; but since the problems were never actually fixed, the bad stuff just starts to settle back into their lives. People move to Austin, they get a new job, find new friends, everything seems super cool…then, the shine wears off and it all starts to crumble.
DS: Right, like there are ulterior motives behind every one of Allie’s new friendships in Austin.
GM: Some people think that might be all Allie’s fault. They want to blame her for entering into those relationships. But when we try to help someone, we take a certain amount of possession of the person we are helping. Even the most well-meaning people will do this. They’ll help you and then tell you how to live your life. Allie is really trying to get out from under those types of situations. She does make a lot of mistakes, but she isn’t given a lot of freedom and ways to find herself. Everywhere she turns, someone is always trying to help her, but there are always some strings attached.