With some interviews you lose track of time, especially as it’s devoured wholesale by chitchat. I’m in a swank hotel room with actresses Judy Greer and Natasha Lyonne, ostensibly there to grill them about “Addicted to Fresno,” a dark comedy indie in which they play sisters trying to cover up an accidental murder. Their chemistry onscreen is palpable, just as it is in real life. Lyonne, especially, is especially forthright, and even though I have deeply, profoundly erudite questions about Lyonne reuniting with her “But I’m a Cheerleader” director Jamie Babbit, about the evolving casualness of gay characters in movies and the nature of co-dependent relationships, it would seem rude to stop her talking about whatever is on her — and on Greer’s — mind. Things such as:
NYC living: Lyonne has a couple things to say about her current neighborhood, SoHo, which she says, “with great shame,” as she puts it. “It makes me feel like a douchebag. It’s a lot like Times Square, but fancy,” Lyonne explains. She had tried to live in Williamsburg, but then she ran afoul with the L train. “The train doesn’t come for 15 minutes. And where am I? There’s a thousand young people and, mind you, it’s 12:30 on a Tuesday. It’s not rush hour; it’s not the weekend. There’s no train to be had. And then it comes and the question becomes, ‘Are we going to fit in or wait for the next cattle car?’ Then I get more handouts of ‘listen to my record.’ I felt, ‘I can’t do this.’ I live in Manhattan so I don’t have to be polite to people. Now I have to make friends on the subway?”
Books: Lyonne says she used to be a voracious reader, consuming a book a day. “Those days are long gone,” Lyonne says. Now she’s reading Joshua Cohen’s “Book of Numbers” and Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “Between the World and Me,” though that’s it. “It’s hard these days, with the Internet and the attention span. I used to be like, ‘Oh my god, there’s a new Thomas Pynchon out. Now I’m like, ‘Oh boy, it’s Instagram!’ That’s how significantly my IQ has dropped in the past five years. It’s really disturbing.”
Technology: Greer feels Lyonne’s pain. “This thing has ruined my reading,” Greer exclaims, holding up her smartphone. “It’s really hard to read a book on set. “I used to bring a book. But I was always better at flipping through magazines, which is essentially the same thing as what we do on [smartphones].” The problem is digital filmmaking has sped up the process. “Most of the set-ups aren’t as long as they used to be. It used to be an hour in between set-ups. Now everything happens so fast, so, really, the phone is great. I’m addicted to Pinterest. Last night I was trying to fall asleep and I was just on Pinterest. I should have been f—ing reading.”
Social media: “I’m very addicted to Twitter,” Lyonne confesses. “What’s awkward about it is I have a schizophrenic condition. I’m happy to retweet things I find interesting or entertaining, but it goes from being, in one second, some zany zinger about the Video Music Awards to all of a sudden being rape in prison. After that you’re paralyzed; you think you can’t retweet anything funny for awhile.”
But, finally, belatedly, briefly onto the film itself, which seems to have cast them opposite the types they usually play. Greer plays the loose cannon one: Shannon, a sex addict who accidentally kills a one-afternoon-stand. Lyonne plays the panicky but restrained one, Martha, who doesn’t think before helping her sister stay out of jail, through increasingly farcical means. They didn’t have much time to foster the kind of bond that comes with knowing each other their whole lives.
“She thought I was boning her ex-boyfriend, then found out I never boned her ex-boyfriend,” Greer cracks.
“It was pretty smooth sailing after that,” Lyonne replies.
For Lyonne it’s a homecoming with director Jamie Babbit, who directed her in 2000’s “But I’m a Cheerleader.” Here too Lyonne is playing a lesbian, but it’s handled casually and it’s not the main trait that defines her.
“I love that about her,” Lyonne says. “I remember it was really crazy-making back then to have to constantly be talking about it as a ‘gay love story.’” But Martha just is. “As problematic as her life is for a million reasons, none of them are surrounding her sexuality. She’s just a person living in the world, which would make a lot of sense in 2015. How depressing it would have been to revisit that aspect and still have it be the main topic.
“The bottom line, of course, is straight people are the sick ones. That’s really the message here,” she adds.
What is interesting is the film’s look at its heroes’ co-dependent relationship. “It’s such a real aspect of high-functioning life,” Lyonne says. “Co-dependency is such a real, under-the-table issue that everyone has to deal with — with your boss, your parents. Everyone has a co-dependent trait. Here it’s someone who’s like, “How do I help you cover up a murder?’”
That ties into the look at sibling relationships, though Greer, who has no siblings, only wishes she could relate. “I’m jealous of people with siblings, especially now that I’m older,” Greer says. “I see a bond between my friends who have siblings. I’m envious of that. They’re better fighters than I am. I’m bad at fighting because I never had anyone to fight with.”
And with that, we’re out of time.