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  • Jay DiPietro


    Writer-director Jay DiPietro. in Jay DiPietro
    Writer-director Jay DiPietro.

    Jay DiPietro (continued)

    Continued | Back to part 1

    I think in terms of what might be autobiographical, to remember one day, when I was doing the adaptation of it, I was thinking, like my wife just wouldn't apologize for something, and I was like, "God, you know, she never apologizes for anything!" You know? And then something just clicked in my mind, and it was like, "I think that's exactly why we're together." I came from the city from Massachusetts, and she's a New York girl, and even coming to the city you have to start apologizing for yourself, and you have to say what you mean, and feel it, and rise to the occasion, and all those kind of things. And here we are years later and now I have that. And we have these conflicts, and you start blaming people for the things that are actually what attracted you to them in the first place. And that's a little autobiographical.


    Related links: "Peter and Vandy" official site
    "Peter and Vandy," playing at:
    Village East
    187 2nd Ave at 12th St.


      Review: Peter and Vandy
    "Peter and Vandy," once an acclaimed off-off-Broadway play about a mixed-up romance and break-up, suffers in its new incarnation as a film.

    Q: I was thinking about that wedding scene. Peter and Vandy are sitting at a table with a happy couple and a, let's say, high-conflict couple, at least. Do you have thoughts about how those couples got to be the way they were?

    JAY DIPIETRO: Um ... I see couples like that all the time. How they get that way? I guess for me, the way Peter and Vandy get that way is they were always that way. You know? He wanted to stop apologizing; she was somebody who was always attracted to conflict, and they were a perfect storm in that sense. They were both giving each other what they needed, and that ended up being, the conflict was a natural by-product of that.

    And to me, there are certain ideas of what intimacy is, and there's certain theories of it, that it's being able to trade statuses with the person that you're with. And even if you think about it in those terms, it's like you have two friends, and one of them's got a great job and the other one maybe doesn't, or something. There's always this kind of, you know, this person's always up here [gesturing] and this person can't even insult him. Do you know what I mean? Because if he did, the guy would just look at him — it would be over. But the people who can do that back and forth — they can maybe insult each other and go back and forth, go back and forth, go back and forth with it — the frequency with which they do it is like a friendship number. You know? And the higher the frequency, the better.

    Jason Ritter and Jess Weixler in Peter and Vandy. in Jay DiPietro  
    Jason Ritter and Jess Weixler in "Peter and Vandy."
    And if you think of it in those terms, in love affairs, conflict is going to be something that is going to be part of it. If somebody takes status over you that you're in love with, you almost owe it to them to take it back. [Laughs.] And how do you do that? Even in the scene where he's getting ready for the interview, she's trying to help him and he's like ... "Fuck off!" You know? He's just saying, "I don't need you. I don't need you right now." And she finds a way to be needed again by bringing him down a little bit — that happens all the time.

    And this all comes out of a craving to be close to the other person, but at some times you do things that are, like I say — conflict is part of how you get resolution to get closer to the other person, and sometimes it can inspire a lot of control, and sometimes it gets bad. Sometimes you say things that you can't unsay, and sometimes things get broken that shouldn't be broken.

    Q: I was thinking about things like the tie scene that you mentioned, and the sandwich scene, and one thing that I was a little uneasy with was what small things were provoking their arguments. Did those stand for something bigger?

    JAY DIPIETRO: Well, yeah, I mean, those two scenes are completely interlocked. One happens right after the other. There's something about him. He's coming back [from a job interview], he knows ... it's all about displaced anger. There's certain things you just get in huge arguments over, and it's not that person's fault. You know? [Laughs.] It's really just not! And you're being unfair, and you're being a dick to them, and they deserve better. And it's you. Sometimes it's them, sometimes it's you. And that was a perfect occasion of, you know, it wasn't them. But sometimes it's very hard to find that — sometimes that line is very, very thin, too, and if you really wanted to look in a certain way you could see how he was angry with her and how he felt like she was maybe provoking him a little bit. Because that's kind of what happened in the morning — she provoked him into a thing where she wanted to be needed and she found a way to get it. And maybe in some psychological reach, he did blame her for failing in some way.

      "My wife just wouldn't apologize for something, and I was like, 'God, you know, she never apologizes for anything!' And then something just clicked in my mind, and it was like, 'I think that's exactly why we're together.'"
    Anyway, the idea in both of those scenes is just about that — that displaced anger, and how, like I said, you'll blame somebody for something that that's why they got together in the first place. He liked that she did these things. And for me this story is like — by the time they get to the end, they break apart and then they come back together because they do have that realization that, "You know what? This is what I asked for. And I'm not going to just run away from this and start over with somebody else and have all the same [problems]. I want to see if it's me or if it's you." And whatever happens with them happens. Maybe they aren't meant for each other, but at least they have a little more self-knowledge when they start over.

    [NOTE: DiPietro's young daughter Rose appears in one scene, a family dinner in which she asks Vandy pointed questions about why she isn't with Peter anymore. One of the true-to-life touches to the scene is that the parents are just realizing that Rose has begun to understand when they spell out words like P-E-T-E-R in front of her, and they're losing the ability to keep adult secrets.]

    Q: Tell me about how your daughter wound up in the picture.

    Rose DiPietro in her dad's film, Peter and Vandy. in Jay DiPietro  
    Rose DiPietro in her dad's film, "Peter and Vandy."
    JAY DIPIETRO: I wrote a scene that had a little girl in it, and I thought it would be fun to do with her.

    Q: I thought that was one of the best things in the movie, partly because it captures a moment that you don't think about. Like, there has to be this moment between the time the kid is just "nothing" and the time the kid is onto you. And you got the line right between that, and everybody was coping with that.

    JAY DIPIETRO: Yeah. That was just a fun ... it was something fun to do. And it was also a way of, you know, you have to give information in films, and you try and do it in ways, hopefully, that are better than her whining to her friend, you know, in a bar about what happened. So you get a sense that they're split up but it's not like she feels great about it. To me, it's also her kind of getting a sense, Vandy realizing a little bit, too, that it wasn't all him. That she does have some culpability in this thing. It's not necessarily all about the cheating, either — it's about them and their pathology.

    Q: How do you "evaluate her performance"?

    JAY DIPIETRO: How do I evaluate her performance? [Laughs.] I give her a B-minus! No, she was great.

    Q: I'm just kidding. But I would like to hear what you thought about how she did.

    JAY DIPIETRO: It was wonderful, you know. It was interesting. The two of them had really, really great chemistry. When I first met them, I felt like I had my own individual friendships with both of them as people, and then after watching them get together a little bit it became this paternal relationship, where it's just sort of like, step back and have your fun.

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    OCTOBER 9, 2009

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