Land of Women: Jonathan Kasdan’s Misfire

Guided by the formidable words of wisdom dispensed to all writers, write what you know, Jonathan Kasdan found shifting gears from the daily rigors of writing for TV to penning a feature-length screenplay, became an act of following his own heart and focusing on his love for film.

Kasdan explains, Ive been inundated with movies since my earliest memories. Films are my passion. It took a couple of scripts for me to realize that what I had to do was write something that was, among other things, fun. What I ended up writing was far more dramatic and more personal that I had intended. He continues, When I sat down to write a movie about what I really loved, it seemed obvious that what I really loved were women, being around them and trying to figure out my relationship with them.

Self-Discovery

Carter Webbs adventure is one of self-discovery where often the bumpy road traveled is more illuminating than the final destination you arrive at. The movie is really about a guy who is in the process of falling in love with his life. When we meet Carter, Kasdan says, hes struggling, conflicted and a bit lost. At the end of the movie, his changes are very subtle as hes had a couple of those moments where he comes into contact with the overwhelming thrill of the journey of his life.

The scripts ability to connect with those defining moments of everyday life was what attracted producers Steve Golin and David Kanter. This is a movie about humanity, says Kanter. Its fresh and original and the dramatic questions posed are very relevant and couched in real language the dialogue is funny and smart. Youre always hoping to find material that will leave an impact on the audience.

Collision and Control

For Golin, what makes “In the Land of Women” such a compelling story, is people colliding at a time when everything in their lives, everything they thought they controlled, is slipping through their fingers, and in that moment, find allies in each other. The movie spans a very brief period of time. Both Carter and Sarah are going through their own personal crises and for this short window they develop a very poignant bond with each other. Its about two people at the right time at the right place.

“In the Land of Women” is a glimpse inside a female-centric world from a young mans perspective. What continually caught the actors off-guard was Kasdans uncanny ability to articulate a womans perspective with such sensitivity.

Kanter suggests where Kasdan may have started to learn about the psychology of the opposite sex. Jon told us a story about when he attended this very renowned private school in West Los Angeles and apparently wrote an advice column for the girls who attended this fancy girls private school in Brentwood. He was giving advice to high school girls while being a teenager himself. Its part of his charm. He has an innate ability to observe human behavior and then to write about it.

Being Alive

What is the directors ultimate hope for what audiences will experience I feel like Ive had that a couple of times where Ive been able to catch myself in a moment and think This is the best, being alive! says Kasdan. It comes back to a Woody Allen quote from Deconstructing Harry where hes visited by the ghost of his old friend whos just died. Hes in the jail cell and he says to the ghost, I know it sounds trite, but I just want to be happy and the ghost says To be alive is to be happy. Take it from me. That has stuck with me forever and it has become one of the formative pieces of dialogue in my life.

This film speaks to this idea that is powerful in my life, which is some sort of synchronicity existing in the universe where events seem to come together at the strangest moments, and sort of work together. Hopefully thats what audiences will see that kind of magic.

Cast and Characters

Production was put on hold for eight months until lead actor Adam Brody was available, a decision that the producers and Kasdan have never regretted. Adam is the heart, soul and life blood of this film, says Kasdan. I spent five months looking for an actor to play the lead in this largely autobiographical story. What I discovered was that I wasnt really looking for an actor to play me, I was looking for a movie star to play someone way more attractive and far less neurotic! In Adam I found everything I wanted for Carter. Adam is a pure, classic leading man in the tradition of Tom Hanks and Cary Grant.

Golin concurs, Adam brings a lot of good will to Carter. He appears effortless in terms of his performance hes very natural and thats one of Adams big strengths. The audience wants to like him even though sometimes hes doing things that may be questionable. Audiences cant help but give him the benefit of the doubt.

Confesses Kasdan, Carter is a character not unlike me in a lot of ways. Hes a very, very verbal young guy who has lived his life sort of in a neurotic kind of active and imaginative way all of his successes and failures have been related to his ability to express himself. Hes one of those guys whos seen a lot of movies and who has lived as much on the other side of the screen as he has in the real world. The thing hes always fantasized about and worked his hardest at is this relationship with Sophia. But she doesnt want to be with him anymore.

Emotional Landscape

While Carters and Sarahs story unfolds, so does the viewers understanding that In the Land of Women is not so much a physical place, as it is an emotional landscape where Carter learns about relationships about their frailties and their fleeting nature.

When I finished the script and read it, says Kasdan, it became immediately clear that Sarahs part was an incredible opportunity to use Meg Ryan. I have been a fan of hers for a long time she has a real skill and craft that allows her to be funny and attractive but also she has this incredible evolved soulfulness. Ive always felt like all the stories I tell on some level are about that space between your ideals and your desires what you want to be and what you are, and how you reconcile those things on a day-to-day basis.

Lucy’s Character

Golin provides further insight into what can fuel teenage-angst. Lucy is going through a bit of an identity crisis. Shes trying to figure out and come to terms with her womanhood her sexuality and independence from her mother. Lucys at that age where its very typical and natural to rebel against her mother and Carter comes along and hes charming, older and shes quite intrigued by him.

Kasdan adds, Lucys character is struggling at every moment of her life with a sort of deep confusion, which leads to an enormous amount of fear. It comes from some unfortunate events in her past but things that so many people will be able to relate to. Her fear is not one some external danger, one of betrayal and shame and being made to look like a fool, or not so much a fool as a freak.

Two Sisters

For Kasdan, it was critical to find the right pairing of energy, looks and talent when it came to casting the roles of Lucy and Paige. Kristen has her own special kind of charisma thats more completely natural and directly connected to adolescence. Being an actual teenage girl, she has an authentic kind of self-consciousness that creates raw energy and power. She is somewhere between being a kid and being a young woman and you can see her reconciling those two opposing forces in herself at every moment of her performance. Makenzie, on the other hand, is truly just a kid, not self-conscious at all, completely uninhibited. She has a kind of light, a glow that is irrepressible.