I wrote, directed and starred in the dark comedy Fruitless to delve into the more uncomfortable and nuanced elements of womanhood. Fruitless isn't just a short about a woman trying to get pregnant; it's a story of a 40 something woman desperately and fruitlessly wanting to belong, while struggling with aging in a society that values youth. The protagonist doesn't need a man to be happy. Rather, she desperately craves membership in a special group of younger women. Rarely are deeply flawed, toxic female characters explored in film. And when a woman is portrayed wanting a baby – it’s usually for all the right reasons. Fruitless turns that expectation on its head.
As society progresses, filmmakers are more frequently allowed to embrace flawed depictions of women. However, when we are told exactly how we must portray women and told that we must show them in these certain ways in order to be accepted (strong, empowered, right, intelligent), we are again limiting the female expression of humanity through art. Men have been allowed to explore all aspects of humanity in film for years through weak and toxic characters, empowered characters, strong characters, flawed characters, anti-heroes and everything in between. I argue that for women to truly be considered artistic equals, they must be allowed to be flawed, weak, wrong, heinous and ugly. Fruitless depicts an "unlikable" woman wanting a child to join the "in crowd." The character is compelling and colorful yet unapologetically misguided, morose and desperate.
I wrote this script and chose to embody the character because motherhood for me was a time for bonding with other women over the shared newness, wonder, and stress of caring for a baby. When my babies turned to toddlers, then to children, life progressed and that time was over. With the honeymoon stage of new motherhood gone, I no longer had a tight circle of female support and I missed the connection. When I see groups of young new moms together, I feel envious and jealous - like an outsider peering in on a special, precious and irreplaceable time in a woman's life. And I'm not alone in this feeling. This is normal and acceptable. Many women crave motherhood and there is nothing "disempowered" about it. It just is. The story of Fruitless was inspired by the wistful longing to belong to that young mom group, even if briefly, one more time -- and the subsequent guilt and sense of internal conflict this elicits in me and others in a judgmental society that sometimes seems to punish high achieving women for becoming mothers.
Fruitless is an edgy story about want, loss and loneliness...and it’s funny. In it, I mine the comedy inherent in desperation and neediness -- comedy grounded in pain – the type of comedy present in everyday life. While some may argue that we shouldn't depict desperate women in film, I argue that desperate and toxic men have served as compelling protagonists for years (Fargo, The Godfather, Jerry Maguire - this list goes on and on) -- and it's only fair that women get the same shot to explore the full, vibrant range of human existence through art. The success of series like Fleabag demonstrates that we crave more stories about deeply flawed, self-sabotaging women -- because they are human and real.