Sometimes art is unpredictable; sometimes life is unpredictable. And sometimes, they can both be that way at the same time.
Then again, when you’re touring the United States with your mobile karaoke party while filming a movie against the hard deadline of your own pregnancy, odds of universal unpredictability are good.
When you’re touring your mobile karaoke party while filming a movie against the hard deadline of your own pregnancy, odds of unpredictability are good.
This was the situation faced by director, writer, musician, actress and legendary partymaker Kestrin Pantera as she made her debut film, Let’s Ruin It With Babies (distributed by Austin indie powerhouse Devolver Digital and shot partly in Austin). In her real life, Pantera says, she struggled with the commitment of starting a family with her adoring husband, tech guru Jonathan Grubb.
Like most women who struggle with this question, Pantera was unsure if she had fulfilled all her personal goals — namely her plans for her business, a mobile karaoke lounge called R(VIP), and her art. There was one item in particular on her bucket list Pantera was most interested in, she says: Although she has been involved with film for years, Pantera wanted to make her own. So, as most artists in her position do, she wrote a script about the conflict in her own life: the question of whether she was ready to have a baby.
The film follows adorable dreamers and happily married couple Channing and Chaz (played by real-life married couple Pantera and Grubb). In the movie, they throw their whole lives and savings into creating the business of Channing’s dreams: a mobile karaoke lounge inside of a giant RV. The couple plans to take the R(VIP) on a tour across the country for three months, during which time they also plan to begin their baby-making project. However, when Chaz gets his dream “mad scientist, genius” job right before the trip, Channing is forced to follow her dreams and face her anxieties alone.
In true “art-imitates-life-imitates-art” fashion, halfway through production, Pantera says, she “got knocked up” by her husband in real life and was had to finish filming the movie before she began to show. The whole thing is not unlike Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York, only without the heart-crushing, soul-stabbing ending.
Rather than crumble under the weight of reflecting her life through art and in turn having art shape her real-time life, Pantera triumphs, and in the process presents her audience with a necessary and light take on impending parenthood and life in general.
The RV in the film — a place where, due to a potent elixir of booze and the surrender of dignity via karaoke performance — is merely, excuse the pun, a vehicle for Let’s Ruin It With Babies’ powerful subject matter. Not every woman reaches a certain age and suddenly begins having visions of her future children in a beam of light, swaddled like an angel hovering above. Some women have questions. Some women, maybe most women, wonder if they are ready and wonder if they will ever be ready.
Channing is at just that crossroads in Let’s Ruin It With Babies. She’s a strong, independent and adorable adult woman, but she’s also a person still wondering what the hell she’s doing on this earth. Is she wasting her life, has she found the validation in herself that she needs, has she drunk all the tequila and more? She’s a character who proves you can be an adult and want adult things without having to grow up completely, especially in the not taking yourself too seriously department.
Let’s Ruin It With Babies also departs refreshingly from the routines of rom-coms and domestic comedy, wherein either two single folks fall in love and, after some hilarious roadblocks, get married or a long-married couple hits a bad patch — this is a love story that unfolds after the wedding. The chemistry is, of course, palpable, but also realistic; as Channing’s sister says pointedly, “marriage is the worst, except in comparison to everything else.”
Devolver Digital presents a special screening of Let’s Ruin It With Babies this Wednesday, January 29, at the Alamo Drafthouse — Slaughter Lane. The film opens in Los Angeles on January 31.