Posted August 29, 2017 by Jeff in Flicks

Lake Bell Reflects on Commitment

I Do...Until I Don't
I Do...Until I Don't

An ensemble comedy following three couples who get talked into participating in a documentary by a jaded filmmaker (Dolly Wells) looking to prove that marriage should be a seven-year contract (with an option to renew), I Do… Until I Don’t is the latest offering from writer-director-actress Lake Bell. Bell stars as Alice, a woman struggling to make her marriage work with Noah (Ed Helms), a blinds salesman on the verge of bankruptcy. The ensemble cast in the indie flick also includes Mary Steenburgen, Paul Reiser, Amber Heard and Wyatt Cenac. Bell recently phoned us from L.A., where she was promoting the movie.

You started to work on this film immediately after your previous film, In a World…. What do you think took you in this direction?
This movie is deeply personal and based on my own reflections on and investigations into marriage and committed relationships. I started writing because it’s a therapeutic endeavor. I’ve seen divorces over the years with friends and family. The subject was something that piqued my interest. I started from a place that was more cynical. I was more of the Vivian character in my opinions, but deep down I secretly wanted to be proved wrong and crack the code. In the writing of the project, I thought I could get to a happy ending. I met my now-husband Scott Campbell years after I started writing it. He inspired this wonderful new perspective in terms of committed relationships. Mainly, what I understood from him and what he showed me from his actions was that the far braver route is to go in and commit hard rather than bailing. That exercise of being called out on something is the key to personal evolution and growth. That’s our privilege as humans on the planet. For me, it felt like the perfect topic to explore.

Alice has so much self-doubt, it’s often difficult to watch her as she gets into the various predicaments. What was it like to play that character?
Poor Alice. She definitely apologizes for the space she takes up. That has a lot to do with the confidence she has in her relationship and the insecurities that have festered over the years. She’s deeply honest and she’s a little lame and she’s still finding her voice. She and Noah have been together for so long—since they were kids—that parts of their relationship and the way they communicate has atrophied somewhat. They have fallen into roles and bad habits and they let things gloss over. The documentary inadvertently rustles the relationship and you unpack some of the issues. I think of the documentarian as a Puck. She’s a rebel rouser jostling these relationships to prove she’s right because she’s so deeply heartbroken. She wants to prove marriage is dead. I enjoyed using her to illuminate the goodness in these relationships and how worthy they are. At the end of the day, I love the institution of commitment based on providing such an opportunity to have a shared witness and shared experiences as you go through darkness and lightness.

The movie is pro-commitment in a way at a time when it’s trendy to be on Tinder and date someone for five seconds. It’s a more provocative and neo-traditionalist way.

Talk about what it was like to work with Ed Helms.
He’s so great in the movie. We have been friends for many years and this was the first opportunity that I found to bring him onto one of my projects. I feel lucky to have the cast that I had. Playing off of Ed was effortless. He and everyone else in the cast are people I respect.

Is the filmmaker inspired by a real person?
Not a particular person I know. That character was inspired by my own feelings about marriage and where I perceived that concept. She provided a mouthpiece to one aspect of my theories regarding the issue.

Talk about where your sense of humor comes from.
In the writing process, I definitely often improvise with myself. I have this weird process in which I gesticulate silently in the corner somewhere and I play all the characters. That’s how I attack dialogue. It stems from my early influences. Woody Allen and Carol Burnett re-runs were some of my favorite things to watch as a child. These are the kind of comedy makers I gravitated toward as a young kid. They became entrenched in my psyche. The musicality of those comedians and the ability to dance between broad and deeply subtle comedic cadences has always been important to me.

How’d you become such a big classic rock fan? The Heart song works perfectly in the film.
Listen, I have an older brother. That is the true answer to that. He’s six years older than I am. He’s a boarding school kid too. There’s something about the amalgamation of those two elements that thrusted me into the Eagles, Dire Straits, Journey and the Band. I was very into it and I have a deep nostalgia for those sounds and riffs. I hope in every movie I can rock out to an epic ballad of some sort. With In the World… I have my Tears for Fears moment, which I wrote into the movie. With this movie, I have a real ode to Heart. I wrote that into the movie. I write a large, expensive, flashy song into my movie, which is a tiny movie, and I do everything in my power to make it happen. So far, so good.


Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at [email protected].