Jenny Slate would agree that audiences will, at times, feel sympathy for her complex character Rose while watching My Blind Brother. And yet, she still refers to some of Rose’s behavior as “disgusting.” The dramedy, written and directed by Sophie Goodhart, stars Slate as the insecure Rose, who dates Robbie (Adam Scott), while clinging to the hope that being with a blind man will not only help humanity, but most importantly, herself. Meanwhile, she’s in love with Robbie’s brother, Bill (Nick Kroll). Audiences may ask themselves: Why doesn’t Rose just date Bill?
If only everything in life was that simple.
I could go on wondering why women, myself included, do certain things when the simple answer is right in front of them. Why are women timid about demanding the promotion they deserve? Reluctant to flee a relationship that’s no longer enjoyable? Scared to let their frenemies know how they really feel? A lot of actions are easier said than done, and I think almost anybody is guilty of remaining in a situation that isn’t right for them — regardless of knowing it isn’t best.
Slate, who's 34, admits to behaving as such. The last year has been a big stepping stone for the actress, who’s just now learning that she’s guilty of avoiding things she wants or needs — and more importantly, why.
My Blind Brother was a huge help in Slate’s recent revelation. “The movie is designed as an examination of our behavior… how our identity is constantly being formed,” she explains. I admit to Slate that while watching the film, my opinion of her character constantly changed. One minute, I’d feel bad for Rose, because I knew she wasn’t truly happy. The next, I’d despise her shallow decision to deny herself a real relationship just to feel good about being someone with a disability. After all, Rose did put herself in that situation and if she stuck with Bill, the love triangle crisis would be averted. But again, nothing is that easy.
Slate understands why people will feel this way about her character, but believes that Rose’s frustrating decisions are necessary for audiences to self-reflect. “You feel rage at them when you see what they should do to make it better and they don’t do it because they’re weak,” she explains. “I think the reason it’s hard to feel bad for that is because it’s something that we can tend to really dislike in ourselves."
And she knows from experience.
It’s clear what Rose wants. She wants to be in a non-selfish relationship, mostly to redeem herself from the death of her ex — which she unnecessarily places blame on herself for. (Ironically, the whole thing id incredibly selfish.) But instead of taking the clear path to a pure relationship, Rose goes the roundabout way. “I was watching and I was like, ‘She’s just really, really unable to deal with what she needs, it’s so disgusting,’” says Slate. “I remember thinking about myself like, ‘Wow. I want to be a direct person.’”
Hating that quality in Rose allowed Slate to not only see it in herself, but want to change it. “It definitely jumps hard at a thought process for me. I think I’m still really actively working on it,” the actress says. For Slate, this process means digging deeper and figuring out why exactly she, and so many women, have such difficulty just asking for what they want.
The answer is: There really is no answer.
“Even in the last year of my life, I’ve thought a lot about the different ways that I’m ashamed of my needs and how sometimes I will have such low expectations in terms of those needs being met that I will try to enter through the backdoor with the ask for those needs to be satisfied,” she reveals. How many people are guilty of that? I know I am. And for what? Nothing, really.
“I do a lot of asking in like a weird, demented, squiggly way because I’m just afraid of what I need,” Slate admits. And it’s true. If anyone truly wants something, what could be so bad about it? “I don’t think there’s anything that I need that is so shameful that I can’t directly just say it,” she says.
When I think about it like that, it changes everything. I’m not asking to win the lotto, for a mansion in the Hollywood Hills, or even dental insurance at this point in life — although those things would be nice. But craving the small things I think I deserve for my well-being and happiness? Absolutely.
For Slate, it’s getting a compliment for a little emotional boost. “Even if it’s like, somebody needs to tell me that I look pretty today, because I don’t feel that about myself. That’s OK,” she says. And that’s the thing — it is OK.
My Blind Brother is now playing in select theaters, iTunes, and On Demand.
Images: Orion Pictures (3)