Christine Weatherup On Masturbating On-Screen In Feminist Rom-Com 'Bread And Butter'

If you had any doubts that the summer of 2015 wasn't a great time to be a woman on-screen (and somehow missed the boat on Trainwreck, Diary of a Teenage Girl, or Grandma) one new movie should clear them up fast. Not only is Bread and Butter, an indie comedy out Sept. 1 on iTunes and VOD, about a woman, but it's directed and written by one (Liz Manashil), was made by a predominantly female crew, and — most shocking of all — opens with a scene of its central female character masturbating in her bed. Suffice to say, it's not exactly your typical Hollywood movie.

"Reading it the first time was like, whoa!" says Christine Weatherup, who plays Amelia, the sexuality-exploring character in question. "You don’t see this.... it’s never a female, let alone being taken in a serious fashion. She’s not a joke. Her sexuality isn’t the joke."

In a movie about a 30-year-old virgin dealing with romance for the first time, it would be easy to have made Amelia's life just that, but Bread and Butter is wiser than your typical R-rated comedy. Amelia's virginity and thoughts about sex drive the movie, and while the script includes plenty of jokes, they're not at its protagonist's expense. 

"Sometimes when hearing people’s responses to the film, there will be a question, like, 'How can she almost be 30 and be a virgin? That’s impossible. Like, what’s wrong with her'?" Weatherup says. "And I thought it was really important to show that, as somebody in that age range, I know people who are virgins and there's nothing wrong with them."

In Bread and Butter, Amelia's decision to start dating (and possibly, eventually, lose her virginity) doesn't come without its hiccups — her first potential boyfriends consist of the painfully awkward Daniel (Bobby Moynihan) and the depressed, eccentric Leonard (Micah Hauptman), and each relationship moves along at a snail's pace. But it's treated with respect, seen as a worthy, brave pursuit by a woman simply arriving to the sexual game a bit later than the average person.

"It was really refreshing to read a script that placed a woman not as an object of desire, or [with] the relationship being the key to her happiness, but ... her own coming-of-age and acceptance of herself being the most important part," says Weatherup. "It positioned female sexuality in a positive way but also not a typical way, not what you’ve ever seen on-screen. Which was, as an actor playing that role, sometimes intimidating and scary, but ultimately what was most exciting."

In many ways, Bread and Butter is your average rom-com: awkward girl can't find love, suddenly does, must choose between two guys with the help of her best friend and well-meaning others. But its feminist themes and unraveling of cliches (Leonard's depression, for instance, isn't a "quirk" or "flaw," but a debilitating mental illness) make it stand out from the pack, something that excited Weatherup when she first got on-board.

"I love that they have baggage and are complex, because I feel like that is a trope of the romantic comedy, that characters aren’t layered, they don’t really have flaws, and ultimately the woman who’s the ugly duckling, she takes out her bun and takes off the glasses and she’s a gorgeous person and everything’s fixed," says Weatherup. "And I love that in the script, everybody is complex and layered and problematic in their own ways ... that’s much more authentic and interesting."

Weatherup credits the movie's ardent feminism to its director and crew ("It was very important that this is a movie about a woman and it’s by women," she says) who, she explains, set out to make a movie that defied Hollywood's norms. 

"When Liz talked about the movie, she sort of phrased it as a de-glamorized, anti-romantic comedy," the actress says. "And all of those things really excited me, because I’m someone who grew up on romantic comedies and loved the genre, but there’s a lot of unhealthy aspects."

She continues, "So often, it's centered around the male gaze, and you’re looking at the woman as the object. So for it to come from Amelia — it’s really valuable and important. It’s not a side that we often see."

Having Amelia and her actions lead the plot means that Weatherup leads practically every scene, including several — like the masturbation sequence — that presented some unique challenges for the actress.

[Embed]

"Even in some of the scenes that were a little racy, or a little scary or daunting in that way, I couldn’t have been more comfortable," says Weatherup, adding that the predominantly female crew helped in that regard. "There’s nothing I’m embarrassed about being on-screen."

She says that co-stars like Moynihan added to the comfort level; Moynihan, she says, best known for playing loud, vivacious characters on Saturday Night Live, did such "authentic work" as Daniel that it immediately put her at ease.

"It was so exciting to see, because I’m such a big fan of his comedy on SNL," she says. "So to see him play a role that's so different and so grounded, and also complicated and interesting, was lovely."

Since both actors had rarely ventured into indie dramedy territory like Bread and Butter, they bonded over the unfamiliarity of their new project. Weatherup says they were both just thrilled to have "the opportunity to do a piece like this." And while after, Moynihan might go back to the sketches and impersonations of SNL, his co-star plans to stay firmly within the film world; Weatherup's film Echo Lake is about to start its festival run, and she has plans to direct and star in a short film she also wrote later this year. Bread and Butter is opening doors for its lead actress, and breaking ground for other women in the process.

Images: The Orchard

Must Reads