Amanda Kramer’s movie Please Baby Please, starring Andrea Riseborough, Harry Melling and Demi Moore, has already garnered extensive comparison to West Side Story and David Lynch, but the filmmaker really exemplifies the phenomenon of actually creating a new and imaginative world for an audience to explore.
"It's an absolute celebration, this film, everybody who sees it is so thrilled that they've watched it and had no idea from those first few moments where it was going to go," Riseborough told Yahoo Canada. "We really, really need cinema like that, it's so important."
"Amanda's presenting a language to you that's not previously been put in context for you and that's the most exciting experience to have as a viewer of a film... This film is so real and so fantastical and magical, and it's difficult to describe to people what an experience it is because it's, that horrible term is coming into my head because I hear it so much,...genre bending, which basically means anything that's imaginative."
What is 'Please Baby Please' about?
At the outset of Please Baby Please, set in the 1950s, Suze (Andrea Riseborough) and Arthur (Harry Melling), who are seemingly the perfectly prescribed bohemian couple, witness a murder by a gang called The Young Gents. While initially in fear, that turns into a sort of thrill, awakening their personal fantasies.
Arthur is attracted to Young Gent Teddy (Karl Glusman), while Suze is transfixed by this gang's dominant, masculine behaviour. Suze then ends up becoming even more inspired by and envious of the life of her neighbour Maureen (Moore), who has a rich and absent husband.
Please Baby Please is this unique exploration of gender, identity and sexuality in this intoxicatingly attractive style. Riseborough's Suze is mesmerizing, down to every specific physical detail, while Melling, who many will know as Dudley Dursley from the Harry Potter films, gives an affecting performance that is a great balance to Suze.
“I was going through just film worship, having a brief period of writing where I just wanted to write about films, I just wanted to be a part of a film lineage, I wanted to think about image making and period film,” Amanda Kramer told Yahoo Canada about her journey to craft this film. “Then also, just being a woman of the world going through all the gender conversations that we have, and all the questions of sexuality and ways in which we interact as modern women, men.”
“Sometimes you're told, write for success or right for sale, or write for trend or whatever, and you find that the stories that you write that mean the most to you are, I think, the ones that have the most enduring quality."
'I see the world differently and I have a different experience'
When it came to crafting the queer narrative of Please Baby Please, Amanda Kramer had no intention of creating the story with the more typical, inherently tragic themes we historically see most often in Hollywood films.
“I was born in the early ‘80s,...Hollywood would make a movie and the gay person in it would have to teach you a lesson and then die,” Kramer said. “People had a deep connection with these movies and I think the reason they had a deep connection with them was because the world wasn't so divided yet.”
“This was the beginning of a storytelling era where people wanted to see these stories, but they didn't have them in their personal lives, and so they would see something like Philadelphia and it would touch them in inextricable ways… These stories were things, I think, that healed people in cinema."
Kramer added that while that's how several queer films were shaped in the past, in 2022, there is space to make a film, a period piece in particular, through the lens of the present-day world.
"I live in a present time, I don't live in that time anymore, I don't make work in that time, so I have the opportunity to look sideways into celebration films and films that move away from that narrative," Kramer said. "I have no problem with the narrative enduring and I think that there's still a place for that. I'm not the person to tell that story, I see the world differently and I have a different experience.”
“[This film] was about a way of queering the entire universe where almost every character is going through a queer journey and every character needs to come to love themselves and find acceptance within themselves, and outside themselves... You could say that's inaccurate, in the 1950s all of these people would be totally banished, or completely left inside of rooms and outside of culture. But that I think, too, is the great thing about living in the present time is, you can make period films with your own gaze and be of contemporary mind and do a mashup."
'It's something that we have to fight to keep doing in cinema'
The film's star Andrea Riseborough praised director Amanda Kramer for being able to "embrace" difference dynamics and concepts in making this film, and allowing the actors the space to work within her vision.
"All of my favourite directors have that quality where they're able to embrace a lot of different periods, genres, ideas, cultures, appeal to lots of different demographics and it's something that we have to fight to keep doing in cinema," Riseborough said. "So much of the cinema that I watch now,...you literally know what the other person is going to say every time the camera moves from person to person, even in some of the most prestigious, expensive work, and it's miserable."
"One of the really important things that Amanda did as a filmmaker, she created a space where she knew exactly what she wanted to capture in each moment. She had an eye on the scene before we stepped into it and...she created the stage. There was no constraint. There was no sort of micromanaging or an inability to express what she wants or needs, or a fixed idea of what we should get... So often magic happens in the unknown and Amanda's so open to that, there's a huge, vast playground for that on her set."
Kramer added that as a filmmaker, what she found in Riseborough is an actor who "set the tone for the entire film."
“I think about like, Ellen Greene's performance in Little Shop of Horrors, or Michael Keaton's performance in Beetlejuice, where somebody is like,...I need to be the world builder, and then the rest of the cast is open, like a blossom, and they understand, OK this is where we all live,” Kramer said. “The first thing you see Andrea do in these early moments in the film, you recognize almost immediately that all of the actors have to understand that we're going to do something different and reality here is one that we build together.”
“That, I think, is a trickle down from your lead character who is setting that tone, and not being afraid… One of the greatest gifts we can be given in cinema is to have someone drop a facade and actually just create a character out of nothing… That is why things become cult and why they become classic and timeless.”
Please Baby Please is on VOD/Digital on November 29