In 1974, Richard Nixon resigned due to: the Watergate scandal† In 2022, a comedy inspired by the scandal will be released on May 27, following a fictional White House transcriber who exclusively received 18 minutes and 30 seconds of missing Nixon tapes. She contacts a Times reporter with the intention of leaking the tapes to the public and revealing the truth. They decide it’s best that they listen to the tapes in the safety of a remote area. As they attempt this, they face numerous obstacles, including technical difficulties, a hippie cult, and swingers wanting them to keep eating† Everything seems to stand in their way of doing what’s best for the common good.
18½ starring Willa Fitzgerald, John Magaro, Gina Kreiezmar, Mariha Juliette Abney, Richard Kind, and Vondie Curtis-Hall. It is directed by Dan Mirvish, co-founder of the Slamdance Film Festival, who co-wrote the script with Daniel Moya. Fitzgerald plays Connie in the film and Magaro plays Paul, the Times reporter.
Prior to its release, Fitzgerald joined Movieweb to talk about the film.
The world of 18½
“I think it’s a great character [Connie]† And I like a movie that’s a bit contained. It’s really only six characters and one location. That’s always a really fun experience, especially in the indie film world. It feels like a play you are doing in front of the camera.”
Fitzgerald went on to recall that working with Magaro on the film was a fantastic experience. “He’s such a good actor. One of the best parts of our job is that we’re constantly meeting and working with new people. It’s always great to have chemistry right away, and it makes your job as an actor easier.” She explained and then went on to work with Mirvish. “Dan is also great. He’s been doing this for a long time and has really interesting ideas about how to film indies.”
Perhaps one of the most interesting scenes in this indie, without giving too much away, is a fight towards the end of the film where less is more† “A lot of it isn’t on camera,” Fitzgerald said. “I love that… Dan was so smart by not seeing most of it on the screen and instead… seeing it in bits and pieces… it works as well as a device, both for tension build up as if to leave it to the imagination.”
18½ certainly does that well with the addition of subtle but good jokes in the dialogue. In one scene, a member of the hippie cult encountered by the protagonists spiritually confess“You can’t spell vitamin without Vietnam.” But in other scenes, viewers can experience very different tones.
“This film is especially interesting because there is a dissonance between what is happening and the different moments in the film. It creates a feeling of off-kilter…almost Alice in Wonderland kind of experience for Connie. It’s a fun world. John and I, we had a lot of our stuff in the first week and a half of shooting, and then Vondi and Kathy came in, and we had to adjust like we were in another movie for the change in dynamics… And so that It was nice to have that art conform to life situations.”
Combining Fiction and Non-Fiction
However, the Watergate scandal is a very real moment in American history 18½ mixes that with fiction to draw his story. Nevertheless, the film offers a level of commentary to today’s America. “It’s something that’s such a part of American history. And I think, especially in recent political events, it’s a natural looking back…and that was part of the fun of making the movie, that is thinking about the things that are particularly striking in the current political world in which we live.’
Fitzgerald continued, speaking on themes of mistrust while drawing parallels between the 1970s and today: “The Watergate scandal made many people very uneasy about the power of the presidency and the lies perpetuated by those in high office… and it caused a lot of problems in our whole system.” Which is of course a big motivator in the movie.
As for Connie, Fitzgerald noted that she experiences those levels of distrust and that a major developmental point in her character is that she struggles to square what she initially believes with what she’s seen and heard, and to become untangled with prejudice.
Willa Fitzgerald can be recognized in several other roles, including Roscoe Conklin in reacher and Emma Duval in Scream: The TV Series† 18½ is a production of 101 Films International, Bugeater Films, Kyyba films, and is associated with Syncopated Daydreams and Terry Keefe Media.
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