Katja Blichfeld and Ben Sinclair, a married filmmaking duo, created the web series High Maintenance, which they write, direct, and produce together. It has been praised by the likes of The New Yorker, The Guardian, Entertainment Weekly, and Rolling Stone. Blichfeld received an Emmy for her work in casting (30 Rock, 2013). Sinclair stars in High Maintenance, which was recently picked up by HBO for a six-episode run. (Photo by Cameron Marshad)
KATJA: I kinda feel like a pervert.
KATJA: Because of what I thought the title meant.
BEN: Oh, They Came Together?
BEN: I heard someone use the phrase “come towards the light” earlier this week, and I just imagined someone coming on a lamp. [Both laugh, followed by a full minute of silence.] This movie was funny.
[Another seemingly interminable silence.]
BEN: It’s hard to talk about things like this, like this.
KATJA: It is! You know, I read some reviews before we saw the movie, and –
BEN: You read reviews?! You told me not to!
KATJA: I know! That’s because I started to read reviews, out of habit, and then realized that was probably a dumb thing to do in this instance.
BEN: Aw man, I felt so silly when you saw me reading reviews.
KATJA: No! I was trying to save you, man. Because I had started down the same track and realized we should probably enjoy the film without any preconceived notions.
KATJA: But I saw enough to observe that people seem to be kinda split on how they feel about this one. The people who didn’t like it seem to criticize it as being “messy” or, like, an extended sketch. And to those people I say, “So what?”
BEN: I mean, it did sort of have the feeling of a supersized Harold. With a budget.
KATJA: And you laughed the whole time.
BEN: I laughed the whole time.
KATJA: Exactly. Me too. I couldn’t help but think about all the films that have been made from a smaller premise with a bigger budget, like all of those comedies based on SNL characters in the ’90s and early 2000s. It’s Pat! or Superstar and what have you. I didn’t laugh at those so much.
BEN: No. This film didn’t seem like it was trying to grab a wide audience. It seemed like it was going for that cynical bunch of people, that ahhh – I mean, even the way they were regarding marriage and divorce. They were pretty much like “divorce happens.” The whole point of a rom-com is to be blithely optimistic. I don’t know, it seems like some of the people in this arrangement maybe had a divorce.
KATJA: Maybe. I dunno. I think the two guys who wrote it, David Wain and Michael Showalter, are both married. Wain’s wife, Zandy Hartig, plays Amy Poehler’s sister.
BEN: It felt like we were about to get a divorce right before the movie started. The way we were fighting. In a way, the movie saved us.
KATJA: It definitely diffused the tension.
BEN: This movie really felt like a bunch of friends hanging out and having a good time.
KATJA: Right. Sometimes that can translate as being – I dunno, indulgent? And sometimes sort of insular. It can get really annoying. You know what I mean?
BEN: You mean like Anchorman 2?
KATJA: Yeah. You know what I mean. Like no one will cut out a joke. They won’t kill any babies.
BEN: Yeah, that just seemed like it was about making money.
KATJA: They Came Together felt really manic in parts but it was always controlled. It didn’t feel indulgent.
BEN: Well, the tone was established right away. And everybody was on the same page. Everyone’s playing earnest and no one is winking at the camera.
KATJA: Except when they are. When they wink at the camera, literally.
BEN: Right. But otherwise the writing is doing that job.
KATJA: That group is just really committed. Once they grab onto a joke or a conceit, they don’t half-ass it. I also love all the literal humor. Like when Amy Poehler laments that she looks like a chimney sweep –
BEN: – and then she was dressed like a chimney sweep! Yes! It reminded me of the Zucker brothers’ movies in that way.
KATJA: It’s been a while since we’ve had that sort of movie.
BEN: Loaded Weapon 1…
KATJA: Actually, I take that back. The Wayans brothers have been doing those Scary Movies for a while now.
BEN: So many brothers. Oh, you know what I also liked about the movie? It seemed like it was exclusively shot in Brooklyn Heights.
KATJA: Oh, most definitely. That park they were playing football in – off of Cadman Plaza? I love how that cafe was across the street from the Clark Street stop but the signage said “Upper West Side Subway.”
BEN: All of the art direction was really so good.
KATJA: Yeah. Very clever.
BEN: Like all the pictures of red roses in the apartment Paul Rudd shared with his fiancé.
KATJA: Or the Z Gallerie vibe of the place he shared with his brother. All the clocks on that exposed brick wall. And the vintage street signs. And globes! HA! I also loved Paul Rudd’s “Cup of Joel” coffee-cart accoutrements – the styrofoam cups and the old-school coffee makers. Like it was a coffee service at Pep Boys.
BEN: Wet Hot American Summer premiered at Sundance in 2001 to sold-out crowds, yet it did not get a distributor. It premiered in NYC in 2001 and then received a limited theatrical release to fewer than 30 cities.
KATJA: What are you looking at?
BEN: Wikipedia. Oh, also Wet Hot only has 31% on Rotten Tomatoes.
KATJA: Psssh. What do the critics know?
BEN: Right? No one knows a fuck about anything!
KATJA: If you look at that sidebar there – showing all the movies in theaters now with a high rating… Do you want to see any of those titles? [Sniffs] There’s a weird smell in this room. I’m actually scared to uncover what it is.
BEN: Think Like a Man Too. What’s that?
KATJA: The sequel to Think Like a Man with Kevin Hart?
BEN: He is, like, 5’2”, by the way.
KATJA: Excuse me?! That’s shorter than John Oates!
BEN: Yeah. Bigger than Jesus, but shorter than Oates. So we’ve got 22 Jump Street, How to Train Your Dragon 2 –
KATJA: All sequels!
KATJA: That’s kind of a sequel. A prequel?
BEN: A spin-off.
KATJA: A companion piece? I guess this movie could sort of seem like a companion piece to Wet Hot.
BEN: I don’t want to see any of these movies. To be honest, I didn’t even know if I wanted to see They Came Together. But that’s ’cause I didn’t know what it was.
KATJA: We’re so out of it. We have to get our recommendations by putting ourselves directly in front of the sources that are telling us what to watch, or what’s out there. We don’t even know most of the time.
BEN: Nick Dawson told us this time.
KATJA: I like that guy. We need to go get a taco with him.
BEN: Okay, we gotta wrap this shit up. So, in summary: Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler – when you’ve got those guys, you can’t lose. Have you ever watched a movie with either of those people and been like, “Fuck this”?
KATJA: No. Never.
BEN: Although Paul Rudd was in Anchorman 2.