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Director Jeff Lipsky’s “Twelve Thirty” Frank, naturalistic and conversational

to receive national distribution, and he hasn’t looked back since. A pioneer in the American independent film movement, Lipsky worked as General Sales Manager of New Yorker Films before co-founding distribution companies, October Films and Lot 47. “Twelve Thirty,” currently playing


at Reading Cinema’s Gaslamp 15, is the first of Jeff Lipsky’s four films as a writer/ director to play San Diego, and an excel- lent excuse to visit Kensington Video in search of his previous efforts. It’s a frank, naturalistic, six-character melodrama about a 22-year-old virgin (Jonathan Groff) who becomes sexually (if not romantically) involved with siblings Mel (Portia Reiners) and Maura (Mamie Gummer) and their mother Vivien (Karen Young), much to the horror of their divorced, bisexual father (Reed Birney). Lipsky excels at slowly and indelicately

peeling away just enough layers to make the act of withholding information all the more enjoyable. Essentially a series of filmed conversations, expert Texas Hold ’Em dealer Lipsky knows exactly how and when to dole out the river cards for maxi- mum payback.

Our conversation quickly turned to

the difficulty of making sympathetic films about seemingly unlikable characters.

Scott Marks: People have forgotten how

to make melodramas. They’ve become the subject of telenovellas. Let’s talk about the way in which you handle the “my gay step dad” subplot. Martin (Reed Birney) comes out to the audience in such an odd man-


“Around four to five months in, I got complacent and I got bullheaded. I thought, ‘I’ve got this thing kicked,’” remembered Sean. But when his mom called him after her dental surgery asking about missing pills, he got a “wake up call.” “I’ve harmed my family so

much that when Percocets go missing in a home that I don’t even live in, I’m the first person they accuse,” he said. “Things that you believe that you’re repairing and then you have these realizations that things change a lot slower with other people than they do with yourself.” However, he said transition-

ing slowly benefits his recovery, as it allows him time to gradu- ally repair relationships and establish healthy life habits. “Therapy and structure

starts out really strong,” said Partch. After that it begins to slow down; clients gradu- ally gain more freedom as they progress through the program. Sean, whose treatment

began at the Dulzura location, agrees that recovery will take time. He said he expects to be with Rancho L’Abri’s Hillcrest facility for at least a year. “Even though my family was concerned about my proximity to drugs and alcohol [at the Hill- crest location] I view the added temptations as inevitable,” he said.

*A pseudonym.u

eff Lipsky helped to market John Cassavetes’ “A Woman Under the Influence,” the first independent film

ner. We initially cringe at the thought of Mar- tin on the phone sweet talking his lover in front of his ex-wife Vivien (Karen Young). Yet when we realize that it’s a guy, not a woman he’s speaking to, it softens the blow and he doesn’t come off as the sadist one originally takes him for.

Jeff Lipsky:

The complexity of that moment is you are watch- ing Vivien’s heart being broken all over again at that very moment. [The audience is] about to learn he’s bi- sexual.

SM: It’s a great reveal. I find myself unfamiliar with the actor’s work, but Reed Birney nails this character.

JL: I couldn’t agree with you more.

Reed is going to be one of the stars of my next film. I was completely unfamiliar with him. Since we shot “Twelve Thirty,” he has become one of New York’s most in- demand stage actors. The only film I had seen him in prior to “Twelve Thirty” was a small role as the Mayor of Los Angeles in

Writer/director Jeff Lipsky

Clint Eastwood’s “Changeling.”

SM: That,

and a role in Sam Raimi’s “Crimewave” were the only titles that rang a bell when I looked over his filmography.

JL: It was

so important for me to cast someone like that because it was so critical that this man is believable as a bi-sexual. I happen to be straight in my private life, but I have an obliga-

tion if I am going to do something as bold as that, to make sure that it’s credible and to make sure that you can empathize and sympathize with him. I have tremendous sympathy for Martin, and I think it took super-human courage for that character to do what he did in order to be true to him- self. The word ‘abandoned’ may be pretty severe, but to walk out on his family was the only way he could be true to himself. And the other interesting thing about his character, and many of the characters in the film, is that we never meet the only character in the film who is not in any way, shape, or form broken—Martin‘s partner, Robert. Everybody in the family

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talks about Robert, most of the time in very glowing terms.

SM: I can empathize with your charac- ters and sympathize with them, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m going to like them. I think many of the greatest films ever made deal with characters I don’t like. Apart from Annie, there is no one likeable in “Imitation of Life.” I can’t stand the martini-soaked Roger Thornhill and his gang of Madison Ave. stiffs in “North by Northwest,” and Otto Prem- inger is a personal deity, but he’s never presented us with a likeable character. I think it is much harder to make a film about characters you don’t like than it is the other way around.

JL: I can certainly appreciate and re- spect what you just said, but as the writer who conjured up these people, I won’t make a movie about people I don’t like or understand, or people I can’t justify. We are all flawed human beings. There are people who can’t stand each of us no matter how saintly or wonderful we might perceive ourselves to be. I think when I have scenes like Mel and Maura’s rapprochement at the end, or the first scene with Martin, ad- mittedly, it takes a while for the audience to assimilate exactly what’s going on. That scene with Martin speaking such profound love to his partner on the phone…to me, nobody can love a human being like that so unreservedly. At the same moment, you have his wife who is not only willing to maintain—for whatever her motive was— sexual dalliances with her ex-husband, she is willing to mask the pain that she feels when he says things like that in her presence.u

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