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This Christmas, think twice before you leave your kids to the sitter – Jonah Hill stars in the new outrageous comedy The Sitter, in cinemas December 9. A terrible choice to begin with, Hill’s character Noah stumbles into the job and on to trouble because of a certain lady — his alleged quasi-“girlfriend,” Marisa, a manipulative, sexually self-involved woman whose request for Noah to score her some coke – with the promise of sex to follow – triggers the Sitter’s night to remember.
We meet Marisa, portrayed by Ari Graynor in the film’s opening moments, as she reacts to Noah’s oral ministrations. “It was an, umm, interesting scene to shoot,” says Graynor, noting that Hill lightened things up considerably by singing a well know videogame song as the action unfolded. But when he requests she return the favor, Marisa declines, offering weak excuses.
Marisa’s selfishness is a formidable roadblock to likability but here, too, the filmmakers found a softer side to the character. “Marisa is a tough customer, and a pain in the ass, but she’s also vulnerable,” notes Graynor. “You come to understand that her hardened attitude stems from insecurities and a broken heart from a previous relationship.”
But it’s Marisa’s cold, manipulative heart that enables her to ask Noah to embark upon an impossible mission: to secure some cocaine for her – while he’s sitting three obnoxious kids. Noah’s futile task results in him getting chased, punched out, and having his face plastered with a small mountain of the white stuff.
Marisa’s pushers of choice are Karl, an insane but oddly sensitive drug dealer, and his sidekick Julio. Acclaimed actor Sam Rockwell portrays Karl, and JB Smoove, best known for his work as Larry David’s pal on Curb Your Enthusiasm, is the fast-talking and profane Julio.
The two antagonists are so extreme, in unexpected ways, that the movie’s director David Gordon Green admits, “I’m not sure we crafted those characters. I think we just let them out of a cage and they exploded, and things got messy and out of control. We thought of Karl as a combination of James Cagney and Andy Warhol.”
Sam Rockwell notes that Karl is “dangerous, scary, and very funny. He sees Noah as more than just a customer; he wants to be pals with him, and being pals comes with trust. When Karl thinks Noah has betrayed that trust, he is very, very disappointed in Noah.” Julio has a somewhat more traditional approach to being a badass. “I love being bad,” says JB Smoove in his signature rapid-fire patter.
“Julio is so bad, he doesn’t carry a gun – he doesn’t need it! Julio wants to get what’s owed him, and to get it, pursues Noah across the city.” Karl’s subordinate, Garv (Sean Patrick Doyle), never removes his signature roller-skates, as he wheels his way to greeting visitors to Karl’s lair, and running errands for his boss.
Garv’s loyalty and friendship are treasured by Karl – but that doesn’t prevent the drug kingpin from shooting him in the leg when Garv displeases him.
An extraordinarily bizarre character like Karl certainly merits an equally unconventional lair, so The Sitter production designer Richard Wright crafted a surreal scientific laboratory and stronghold, where European techno trance pulsates, and ‘roided-up bodybuilders pump iron beneath pervasive fluorescent lights.
Bodybuilders? Pumping iron? In a drug lab? “I just knew I wanted bodybuilders throughout this environment,” Green explains of the incongruity. Wright was only too happy to oblige, with his imagination sparked by everything from epic Stanley Kubrick sets to ‘80s breakdance movies.
Another favorite set for the filmmakers was “Kid City,” a clothing store where Noah must interrupt his drug run, kids in tow, to buy some new undergarments for young Blithe, who has soiled the pair she’s wearing. “I sharted,” she announces in the car to the appalled Sitter. As Noah waits for Blithe to complete the change of clothing, he’s left alone in the girls’ underwear department.
Noah is confronted by a sales clerk, who understandably assumes he’s a pedophile, and who, it turns out, holds a longtime grudge against him. Their confrontation will escalate throughout the story, to unexpected results.
The Sitter, a genuine New York story, was shot last fall and winter on locations in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn and an upper middle class neighborhood in Yonkers. Brooklyn provided some colorful and historic locations, including the borough’s Williamsberg and Greenpoint sections, the latter providing various interior and exterior locations for Karl’s incredible bodybuilder-laden loft.
New York City – and the way we look at babysitters – may never be the same.
Image Courtesy of http://www.thesittermovie.com/