In the black comedy Girlfriend’s Day (out on Netflix, Feb. 14), Bob Odenkirk plays a divorced romance card writer who finds himself mixed up in some very Raymond Chandler-esque trouble. “It’s a story about a has-been greeting card writer named Ray Wentworth, who ends up in the darker underbelly of the greeting card industry,” laughs the film’s director Michael Paul Stephenson. “He gets caught in a web of murder and deceit — and he struggles to write a perfect greeting card.”
Girlfriend’s Day was cowritten by Odenkirk and boasts an impressive cast which also includes Amber Tamblyn, Natasha Lyonne, Ed Begley Jr., Stacy Keach, Larry Fessenden, June Diane Raphael, Andy Richter, and Toby Huss. Together with Stephenson, the actors contrive to create an absurdist world in which card writers have their own bar and competition within the industry can turn homicidal. “We took reality and we tried to heighten it just a little bit,” says Stephenson. “I would like to think there is some bar where greeting card writers get together, and hang out, and it’s their exclusive place — but the film is absurd in so many ways.”
The same could be said of the strange twists and turns in the filmmaker’s own professional history. As a child actor, Stephenson starred in 1990’s hilariously terrible horror movie, the entirely troll-free Troll 2. He later switched to directing and detailed his Troll 2 experience in 2009’s much-loved Best Worst Movie, which led to 2012’s The American Scream, another nonfiction work about homemade haunted houses. So, how did Stephenson make the leap to narrative filmmaking with Girlfriend’s Day?
“I came across an interview with Bob on The AV Club and he brought up Best Worst Movie,” he says. “I thought, Oh, this is kind of crazy. Long story short, I wound up getting in touch with Bob and invited him and his family to the L.A. premiere of The American Scream at Cinefamily. That night, he said, ‘Hey, have you ever thought about doing something in the narrative world?’ It evolved from there.”
For Stephenson, Troll 2 really does seem to be the gift that keeps on giving. “I owe a lot to that crazy thing,” he admits.
Stephenson next hopes to make the horror-comedy, Destroy All Vampires. Written by Zack Carlson and Bryan Connolly, the film concerns a would-be vampire hunter who leaves a trail of staked corpses across Bavaria, fully unaware that he’s murdering innocent old men. “That’s where my head and my heart is at the moment, getting to Hungary, and Bavaria, and Romania, and shooting that movie,” he says. Maybe Stephenson will finally find some actual trolls while he’s over there.
Watch the trailer for Girlfriend’s Day below and an exclusive clip featuring Bob Odenkirk and Amber Tamblyn, above.
Girlfriend’s Day debuts on Netflix, Feb. 14.