Julie Delpy and the portrait of the women of 40 and 50 in the series On the edge

“The 50 is not the new 30”Julie Delpy said during a recent video call from a hotel room in Paris. He was there to promote his television creation, the 12-part series At the border, which he wrote, supervised, and stars on Netflix.

“There is something almost cruel about women: if we can no longer procreate, what are we?” Asked Delpy, who also directed several episodes. “And so, one becomes a grandmother and exists again at age 70. We have that dead zone. “

Co-production of Netflix and Canal +, At the border It is a comedy sometimes absurd and, however, too real, that Follow four friends from Los Angeles, mostly in good economic situation, while face middle age, only to find that, after all those years, they still have no idea what they are doing.

Justine (Delpy) sustains a marriage that weighs more on her than she acknowledges.

The idea seems to have found a ready audience: within a week of its premiere, The series quickly sneaked into Netflix’s Top 10 in the United States, ranking No. 7 the following weekend.

So there was a dead zone? Not bad for a series with a lot of dialogue, which presents a slice of life and, in addition, it alternates between English and French.

Delpy, 51, has made a career creating and portraying characters who are women of the world in movies where most of the action takes place during a walk, on a train, or around the table. It hasn’t always been easy to get those characters from page to screen, he said, but It was especially difficult for him when he began to write about women his age.

According to the usual formula for romantic comedies, women in their 20s and 30s are often shown blundering and having difficulty understanding what is going on, and that is supposed to be nice. But at 40 or 50 years old – the part that comes after the happy ending – the woman is supposed to have her head in order, right?

On At the border, that idea is literally a joke.

“I loved that all of our characters are beginning to find self-confidence when they are about to turn 50“, said Elisabeth Shue, executive producer and protagonist of the series. He described the shooting of a particular scene, that of a dinner party in Episode 2, which, for Shue, “was a perfect reflection of Julie’s artistic sensibility“.

“It was a lovely mix of madness and humor born out of insecurity and chaos,” he added.

Who is who among the group of friends

In the series, Delpy interpreta a Justine, a successful chef with a busy restaurant. She is writing a cookbook while working long hours at the restaurant, raising a young son and enduring a barrage of passive-aggressive insults from her grumpy husband, who does not have a job.

Shue plays her friend Anne, a clothing designer with a trust fund, a cigarette addiction, and a husband struggling to accept his gender-fluid son.

Poker aces: the four friends play that all for one and one for all.  Photo Netflix.

Poker aces: the four friends play that all for one and one for all. Photo Netflix.

Tony winner Sarah Jones as Yasmin, a mother and wife who abandoned her career and is now desperate to get something back in her life. Alexia Landeau (multi-episode co-author and executive producer) plays Ell, an unemployed single mother with three children, from three different parents.

Despite the difficulties of the characters, At the border It’s largely a comedy, and Delpy isn’t afraid to make jokes about serious topics like the stresses of working mothers. toxic masculinity or age discrimination. In one of the first scenes, Yasmin is interviewed by a woman who is half her age and tells her that she is basically too old.

When Yasmin panics and takes her breast, the young interviewer asks her if she is having a heart attack.

The scene details an experience that many women will relate to; Delpy gives the public permission to laugh, even while having the chills. “I’m 46 years old, not 96!” Yasmin responds.

Delpy’s interesting look

Is about a comical and cerebral sensibility that has been honed throughout Delpy’s career. Her parents, Albert Delpy and Marie Pillet, were actors (they played her parents in the 2007 Delpy movie, Two days in Paris), and she grew up in France surrounded by artists, stage actors, and writers.

Delpy's búsuqeda: "The series talks about not having to lie about age".

Delpy’s search: “The series talks about not having to lie about age.”

Her first big screen role came when Jean Luc Godard cast her in his film Detective, from 1985, when he was 14 years old. Then he worked with Agnieszka Holland in the Golden Globe-winning film Europe Europe and with Krzysztof Kieslowski in his trilogy Three colors.

He spent much of his childhood behind the scenes at his parents’ experimental theater shows or dancing, making music, and writing on his own; later, he studied film at New York University. It’s that mix of experimentation and structure (Delpy is quick to point out that the show is meticulously scripted) which brings to At the border.

“It is sophistication annulled by the absurd”Giovanni Ribisi, who plays Justine’s endearing but infuriating boss, said of Delpy’s sensitivity. “Julie has made a mark with her own style. She is an artisan. It has personality. Like the one you had in the ’70s“.

When Delpy played Céline alongside Ethan Hawke in Before dawn (1995), by Richard Linklater, his character found an echo in a generation of twentysomethings of the ’90s, women who were delighted to see a romantic female lead who could be both philosophical and funny.

Before dawnshot on a modest budget, it proved to audiences and critics that a simple story about two people who meet on a train and talk all night could become one of the most enduring romantic movies of the ’90s.

Delpy’s path in scripts and direction

Delpy co-wrote the sequels, Before sunset and Before midnight, with Linklater and Hawke, and earned Oscar nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay for both films.

He has directed seven films, among them the drama Mi Zoe”, which debuted earlier this year. With At the border, has been able to address topics that interest him, show his comedian skills and explore the lives of women who, at 40 and 50, deserve more than a few unimportant lines.

Amen to friendship, almost every possible link is covered in this Netflix series.

Amen to friendship, almost every possible link is covered in this Netflix series.

“It’s fun to be able to talk about real things,” Delpy said, “It took me a bit to get there though.”

Delpy began to think in 2013 about the four main characters of On the Edge, and soon there was a script. A few people became interested in the project in the years that she was presenting it, but funders and studios were reluctant to support “a series about women in that age range,” she said.

“I think in the end it came to fruition, in part, because people are prepared,” Delpy said. “At last it was the right time.”

Olivier Gauriat, executive producer of the series, signed on in 2019 because he admired Delpy’s work on and off screen. But he was also attracted by what she was trying to do with regard to the representation of women and age.

“There are not many series that revolve around women of that age”Gauriat said. “Canal + and Netflix were very supportive of her, and I think that was the interesting thing for them. They gave her carte blanche.”

How “On the Edge” was built

Pre-production started in the pre-ndemic, shortly before it was suspended like everything else in Hollywood. Delpy went back to the scripts. He adapted some story lines to reflect what was happening. When filming started, had modified the chronology so that the action would take place in January and February 2020, eight weeks in which a crisis was brewing.

Seen over a year and a half later, At the border It looks like a time capsule from those early days, just before everyone started gathering toilet paper and looking for N95 chinstraps.

Delpy said that he had decided to incorporate real-world events because, as the title says, the characters were on the brink of something new and unknown, and so was the world that surrounded them.

“Everything is changing for these characters, but everything is changing for the world as well,” he said.

Things may be changing, but Delpy has no illusions that women over 40 are suddenly the new “it girls”. There’s a moment in the show where Jerry tells Justine, “You’re in a cultural blind spot,” like no one cares about women her age.

It’s funny, because it’s absurdly insulting. It’s also funny because it’s true.

“The series talks about not having to lie about age … Or pretend that one is something else “, Delpy understands, with the wisdom that the years sometimes give.

The New York Times

Translation: Elisa Carnelli

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Julie Delpy and the portrait of the women of 40 and 50 in the series On the edge