As the clock struck midnight on Valentine’s Day, Netflix released its latest original offering, Girlfriend’s Day, an offbeat, neo-noir starring Bob Odenkirk (who also co-wrote and produced) as Ray, a once-renowned greeting card writer who’s lost his creative spark. After more than five years in development, the film takes us into the seedy underbelly of the multi-billion dollar greeting card industry. Directed by Michael Paul Stephenson, best known for his documentaries Best Worst Movie and The American Scream, the film’s tone is as unique and unconventional as the premise behind it.
We got the chance to talk to Stephenson about the creating a believably absurd world, the freedom working outside of the studio system, and what collaborating with a comedy giant like Odenkirk was like.
There’s a very pulp feel to Girlfriend’s Day. What were some of the influences that you took into production?
Bob’s oftentimes has said this is sort of his version of Chinatown. Other references that we talked about early on [were] films that I love that tend to be a little more absurd, like Being There, [which] is an absurd movie. It continues to push that absurdity, but it’s played very, very straight and very real. Coen brothers were obviously a touchstone in so many ways because their characters are elevated, they’re heightened. Reading it on the page, it had the potential to be very just silly, and Bob and I both recognized that early on.
I didn’t go into it thinking we need to try to make people laugh at all. It was how do we actually make it so that this is memorable and that this world feels like there are real stakes in it? How do we create some sort of real sense of stakes within a world that’s ridiculous and absurd? It was fun.