This worried Duchovny, who is 63. The characters in “What Happens Later” bring the weight and disappointments of midlife. “They can’t go through those younger rom-com moves — they can’t appear stupid or stunted,” he said. “And yet they can’t also be jaded or boring. It was really that dance of, how do we make it legitimate for adults?”
Even then, he wondered if there was an appetite to see mature people grasping at connection. “There’s something in us that gets angry when we see people who are old hoping, you know?” he said, adding, “That’s the resistance that we push against in the movie. But lo and behold, we have ‘The Golden Bachelor’ now to show us the way.”
Ryan wrote the movie following her long on-off relationship with the rocker John Mellencamp; she ended their engagement in 2019. Did that have anything to do with her interest in lovers who haunt each other for years? Not specifically, she said. “But in the idea of, some people go round and round” and never get it right. “And maybe they don’t need to.”
“To be my age and to be looking back on things — so many of these stories are about looking forward into a happily ever after,” she said. “And there’s just totally different questions up for grabs here.”
It’s not, of course, lost on her that rom-coms are what sold us on happily ever after (“a crazy idea”) in the first place. And that having the former poster girl for the genre puncture it with regrets or sadness is, to paraphrase her expletive, a mind-twister. “In my way, I feel like it’s a badass little movie,” she said with pride.
She cursed more than I’d expected and leaned into unorthodox pleasures. Learning that I had never been to the area, she pointed me to a Vedanta temple with a curving ocean view, designed, she noted, by one of the first prominent female architects in California. “It’s so surprising,” she said, and insisted on giving me the address, up near the mountains. “No matter what, you’ve got to go over the hill, because it’s sunny.”