In Like Me, out Friday, Addison Timlin (The Town That Dreaded Sundown, Little Sister) plays an aspiring social media star named Kiya who embarks on a crime spree and posts videos of her crimes online. She ultimately kidnaps a skeezy motel owner named Marshall, played by film director and indie-horror guru Larry Fessenden (Habit, The Last Winter). Written and directed by first-time filmmaker Robert Mockler, the movie costars another genre notable, Jeremy Gardner from The Battery and Psychopaths, as a gas station worker who is held up at the start of the film by Timlin’s gun- and iPhone-toting lead character.
“It started with an image that popped in my head,” says Mockler of his film, which had its world premiere at last year’s SXSW Festival. “I saw someone holding up a convenience store with a gun and a smartphone. I thought that image raised a lot of interesting questions. At the same time, I always wanted to make a movie about loneliness, in some way. I’d been fascinated also with the American obsession with outlaws and crime. I felt all these things could converge into something that could be interesting.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you come to cast Addison Timlin as Kiya?
ROBERT MOCKLER: This movie was going to live or die based on whoever we found to bring this character to life. She’s in every scene. It’s her movie. So it was really just about having conversations and meeting a bunch of people, and eventually, I was put in touch with Addison, and we met and had coffee, and she had a really amazing take on the script and on the character. I think it could be easy to look at this character as someone who is just completely superficial, but I had a feeling that she was going to be able to bring a depth to it that not many could pull off. I think she did.
What about Larry Fessenden?
Well, Larry was originally on as a producer. I met him maybe three years ago now. He was a fan of the script, and he was so supportive, and just an ally in terms of writing and everything. [He was] someone I could talk to, a filmmaker who had been through it before in so many different ways, and someone that, when I had questions or insecurities, I could go to, and he was super generous with his time.
I’d seen Habit before, and they were re-releasing his movies [in] a big box set IFC put out, and I rewatched Habit, and I loved his performance in that movie. I feel like his character had a lot of similarities in some ways to Marshall, certainly in dealing with addiction. I felt like Larry could bring a humanity to that role that would be pretty incredible. I asked him if he was interested, and luckily he said, “Yes.”
Your two protagonists are pretty terrible people. It is strongly suggested that Marshall is a pedophile and, early on, Kiya gets pleasure out of utterly terrifying Jeremy Gardner’s character. What was your thinking with regards to this?
Well, I’m always interested in films that portray flawed characters who aren’t necessarily likable, but they’re interesting. You could make a judgment call on them one way or the other. I suppose I don’t want to talk too much about it as far as pointing to a direction as to how I feel about them. But they are incredibly flawed in many ways. How did you feel about that?
There were moments where I was genuinely disturbed by what the characters were saying and doing, especially with Larry Fessenden’s character. That’s not a complaint necessarily, but I found the two leads so appealing as performers, and then periodically you are reminded that their characters have flaws and characteristics which I would say are much worse than “flaws,” really.
Sure. Yeah, and, [in] Taxi Driver, Travis Bickle is incredibly disturbed. [Laughs.] Not a very good person. But I still think you can find a window in with anyone. There are very few people in this world that are just inherently evil. Hopefully other people can see that too.
Having said which, there is no doubt it is a very beautiful and visually vibrant film.
The digital age has unlocked these incredible opportunities in terms of color. We shot on a camera called the a7S, which has a full frame sensor which helped us open up a lot of these claustrophobic spaces. We were aggressive in the way that we treated that footage and the way that we went about color-grading the film. I’m of the mind that, when you shoot digitally, let that be its own aesthetic. Maybe it’s not to everyone’s taste, but I’m interested in exploring how far you can push things now that we are in this territory. Our DP was incredible. His name is James Siewert. He shot a short called The Past Inside the Present, which I recommend everyone watch; it’s fantastic. We bonded over similar influences, like Chris Cunningham music videos and Terry Gilliam and a lot of these surreal visionaries, and we fed off each other in that way. In terms of the look, I’ve always been really inspired by Suspiria and Argento’s approach to color and — I don’t know how to explain it.
I think saying “I’ve always been really inspired by Suspiria” is maybe 90 percent of the explanation right there.
Watch the, rather unsettling, trailer for Like Me above and an exclusive clip from the film featuring Fessenden and Timlin, below.
Like Me opens at New York’s IFC Center and other theaters on Friday and is released on VOD on Feb. 20.