Melissa B. Miller Costanzo‘s new feature, the romantic comedy The List, starring Halston Sage and Christian Navarro, is out now on VOD through Universal Pictures. Her first feature as a writer-director, All These Small Moments, starring Molly Ringwald, Brian d’Arcy James and Jemima Kirke, came out theatrically in 2019. Working in the art department on such award winning films as Indignation, The Fighter, and Precious, she developed an eye for detail and a perspective defined by experience. Her first feature as a producer was The Tested, starring Aunjanue Ellis, which was accepted to the prestigious IFP Independent Filmmaker Lab and Emerging Narratives at IFP Film Week and took home the top prize at the American Black Film Festival.
I love movies. I’ve always loved movies. As far back as I can remember, I’ve been deeply moved by them, almost paralyzed sometimes.
I remember when Good Will Hunting came out. I had just graduated college and I was home in Boston visiting my parents.
I don’t remember whether I had to coax them into seeing it or not, but there we were on our way to the theater – the winter sun casting a harsh white light on the sidewalk.
When the film was over, my parents gathered their coats, hats, etc., but I couldn’t move. When I had finally willed myself to leave the theater, my face red and puffy, I tried to hide the fact that I had been crying.
I was also becoming increasingly mad. Mad at my parents for pivoting back to life as usual while I was experiencing a religious epiphany.
Matt Damon and his vulnerability had touched something inside of me.
He and I both held our feelings inside and were both afraid to let people in. We were the same, goddamnit! This movie was about me. This incident became the catalyst for my increasing suspicions about my parents’ poor taste in movies.
But that’s all behind us now…
Recently, my mom had expressed an interest in seeing Bohemian Rhapsody.
I had read all the stories in the trades about Bryan Singer and I had reservations about seeing it, but also recognized an opportunity. An opportunity for us to get past Good Will Hunting, once and for all. I could offer my mother a chance for redemption. A cinematic olive branch, if you will.
I asked my mom if she’d be interested in both of us watching the movie and then discussing it afterwards. Below is the transcript of that conversation.
Are you excited for this?
OK, before we get started, let’s give people a feel for you.
What was the last movie you saw in the theaters?
What was the last show you binge-watched?
Better Call Saul.
OK, OK. I wasn’t expecting that. Do you know who Barry Jenkins is?
His movie Moonlight won the Best Picture Oscar in 2017.
I didn’t watch it.
I also worked on If Beale Street Could Talk, remember? And I wrote an article on If Beale Street Could Talk for this website and I told you about it. You don’t remember?
I guess not.
Do you know who Paul Thomas Anderson is?
Do you have an Instagram account?
No. But you do.
Yes, that’s true, I do. What does an eggplant emoji stand for?
I don’t know.
OK. Good time to get started. We’re discussing Bohemian Rhapsody. My first question, I think, is probably the most important. Those teeth. For or against?
They didn’t really bother me. I just figured he was being the character. He was being Freddie Mercury. That’s what he looked like.
I don’t know. Do you remember the movie The Hours, with Nicole Kidman?
Well, the discussion surrounding this movie was basically all about her prosthetic nose. Everyone was in an uproar over it and it somehow defined the performance. I rewatched the film recently, and the nose isn’t even that bad. But for me it was the same thing. Freddie Mercury did have big teeth, but they didn’t need to go that far. I found it distracting.
It didn’t bother me.
I know. You said that. Why did you want to watch this film?
Because of friends’ recommendations and the reviews.
Have you ever listened to Queen? Can you name two of their songs?
I really didn’t listen to them in the ’80s, but when I heard a song I liked and heard it was Queen I’d say, “Huh … I didn’t know that was Queen.” Two songs, um, “We are the Champions” and “Another One Bites The Dust.”
Not that I can think of right now.
The same thing happened to me when I was watching the movie. I forgot how many hits they had. How much did you know about the film going into it?
Not much … Just knew it was basically about Freddie Mercury. And his teeth.
Yes, a man and his orthodontic shortcomings. So you didn’t know anything about the director, Bryan Singer?
There’s a whole thing surrounding him about sexually abusing underage boys. And he also stopped showing up to work. It’s a whole thing.
Hmmm. I didn’t know that. Which one were they more upset about?
It’s Hollywood. Don’t know. If you’d known about this stuff, would it have swayed your desire to see the movie?
I don’t think so. Did it with you?
Yeah, kinda. I got caught up in the drama of it and it made me less interested. I heard it was pretty awful on set.
What was your favorite part of the movie?
The beginning showing how they started out, and the end with the Live Aid concert.
So, the beginning and the end?
Ha, I guess so, yeah.
Surprisingly, I agree with that. I think they slogged through a bunch of stuff in the middle. My favorite part was the band. I thought there was a real chemistry with the actors and I felt that band dynamic. I believed they were a band.
Did the movie meet your expectations?
I thoroughly enjoyed Rami Malek’s performance. I thought he was brilliant.
I totally agree. Oh wait, I forgot to mention the cats.
For some reason they thought it was necessary to cut away to Freddie Mercury’s cats for their reactions at emotional moments.
People love their cats. You are not an animal person.
No, you are right. I don’t believe animals should be in the home.
You’re nuts. You know most people like animals.
I don’t dislike animals, I just don’t want to share a home with them.
Any closing statements?
I definitely think Malek should win Best Actor for his role, but the movie should not win.
What’s going on here? We are agreeing more than we are disagreeing? So you’ll do our Oscar pool this year?
Did you like this better than Good Will Hunting?
Forget it. This was fun, right?
Tons of fun.
You want to do it again?
I’d be honored.