Reading is Sexy: Party Girl’s filmmakers share production memories while reading Letterboxd reviews

Parker Posey stars as slacker-turned-librarian Mary in Party Girl (1995).
Parker Posey stars as slacker-turned-librarian Mary in Party Girl (1995).

Party Girl’s writer-director and music supervisor share production memories, praise feminist librarians and give screenwriting advice while reading your Letterboxd reviews of their 1995 indie gem. 

Horny is a good thing, and so are books!

—⁠Daisy von Scherler Mayer

“It’s back again, bitches!” That’s Bill Coleman, music supervisor on Party Girl, happy to be reading Letterboxd reviews of the 1995 comedy on the occasion of its 4K restoration from Fun City Editions. He’s joined by the film’s director Daisy von Scherler Mayer—who co-wrote the script with Harry Birckvon and Sheila Gaffney—whom you may know from her television directing work: Yellowjackets, Mad Men, Halt and Catch Fire and Inventing Anna make up just a small selection of her impressive filmography. 

“Do you see a re-release of The Brothers McMullen 28 years later?” von Scherler Mayer teasingly jokes in the same video, in reference to Edward Burns’ film, which came out in the same year. Both are mid-nineties, New York movies that deal with young adults having to grow up a bit, but it’s Party Girl that has lasted the distance.

“Why is it so timeless?” von Scherler Mayer muses. “I do think it has themes that I’m proud of, you know, feminist and inclusive, etc. But I do think it’s the music—thank you Bill—and the wardrobe that have a lot to do with the timelessness. And, of course, the performance by Parker Posey.” Coleman follows up, “And, of course, the quotable script. You’re being humble, Daisy. This script, everybody walks up to me, to this day—even before this 4K restoration—everyone would quote this film, all the time.”

“Yay, indie kids throughout the country!” von Scherler Mayer enthuses. “Throughout my career, I’ve had people come up to me on sets and be like, ‘I saw your film in my little town!’ That’s a familiar and awesome story.”

It used to be a struggle to track Party Girl down using legal means: “There was a moment when you couldn’t even see it because the DVDs were gone and there was no streaming service that had it on. So somehow this is back by popular demand,” said von Scherler Mayer. “No major studio or any big company behind it. Like, literally it is back because so many people bought the Blu-ray, and so many people watched it on Criterion Channel once they made a 4K resolution.”

She continues, “Thanks to everyone who watched this originally in the theaters, kept their VHS copies, bought the new Blu-ray, listened to the soundtrack and will see it again in theaters. We are so appreciative and so humbled that our little movie still means a lot to a lot of folks. It means a lot to us. We’re happy to be sitting here two decades later and see people still getting the point.”

The point can be summed up by Frances Meh’s review: “Oh great now I’m horny for the Dewey Decimal System,” to which von Scherler Mayer replies, “Horny is a good thing, and so are books!” Coleman continues, “And, hey, we have it all here in our movie. Fun fact for the trainspotters out there: there actually was limited-edition Party Girl condom merch that very few people have. We made condoms that said, ‘Party Girl, coming soon,’ on them!”

If we could raid any fictional character's closet, Mary's would absolutely be up there. 
If we could raid any fictional character's closet, Mary's would absolutely be up there. 

On the topic of the Dewey Decimal System, Ashley’s review reads, “Before I’m a feminist, I’m a librarian,” to which von Scherler Mayer jokingly responds, “Why choose, Ashley? Can’t we be a feminist and a librarian?” The director then provides an example: “All this stuff about Melville Dewey being a sexist man came directly from an interview with a wonderful woman named Noreen Lucas,” she told us.

“She had been a really rockin’ party girl in the day, but had become a librarian. Not that she was the basis of the movie, but we went and talked to her, and I said, ‘Well, I guess you love Melville Dewey because he created the DDS [Dewey Decimal System],’ and she said, ‘Why would you say that? He was awful!’ and went on this rant about how sexist he was and how it [librarian] was a woman’s job and that’s why it’s undervalued. All of that, verbatim, is in the movie.”

The director goes on to preach the creative importance of mining real-world experiences: “Screenwriter kids out there on Letterboxd, we interviewed DJs, we interviewed librarians, real folks in real situations, and you will get way more interesting material than just what one of those Robert McKee ‘have something happen on page ten’ screenwriter books will tell you,” she wisely advises. 

“I wish I was Parker Posey :(“ —Sarah Squirm’s Party Girl review.
“I wish I was Parker Posey :(“ —Sarah Squirm’s Party Girl review.

Von Scherler Mayer fused her personal life with her film by casting her mother, Sasha von Scherler, as Posey’s character Mary’s godmother. “She and Parker got on like a house on fire. In fact, they would secretly sneak cigarettes together,” von Scherler Mayer confesses. “I love the scenes with Sasha. I am constantly quoting her scenes,” says Coleman, and von Scherler Mayer replies, “Yeah, well, you put her scenes on the soundtrack, too!”

Fans of Bill’s soundtrack will want to check out Jason Cawood’s Party Girl review on Letterboxd, in which he writes: “Just in case anyone is interested, here's a complete list of all the records Guillermo Diaz asks Parker Posey to pull for his DJ set after she reorganizes his collection based on the Dewey Decimal System. Apologies in advance if this is only interesting to me.”

It’s just the kind of fan service Party Girl deserves—and wait, there’s more: Jason also made a DJ mix of the soundtrack’s tunes, including “Lick It (No Afro Sheen Mix)” by Karen Finley,“ which is the real name of the Teddy Rogers track Rene loses her mind over in that one scene.”

Mary walks and talks with her Lebanese falafel vendor crush, Mustafa (Omar Townsend).
Mary walks and talks with her Lebanese falafel vendor crush, Mustafa (Omar Townsend).

Coleman in turn gives thanks to the Letterboxd community “for joining the party and celebrating the Party Girl love. It’s all about fun and inclusivity and I think that comes across in all the reviews—even the bad ones. Mostly we’re glad [for] all those people who said they found their family. Whether it’s librarians or party girls or falafel vendors, your people are out there. Find them; I promise they exist!” 

The falafel vendor in question is Mary’s love interest, Mustafa (Omar Townsend). Some reviews take issue with Mary’s appropriation of the falafel culture of her crush (and the casual Orientalism of some of her costumes), but that’s the point, says von Scherler Mayer. “I have to say, I think Mary is culturally insensitive; I would say it’s not the film itself,” she muses. “She’s an unlikeable character, okay? She is being culturally insensitive; that’s why she needs to learn a lesson and change. So I just wanna say, we knew—that’s why he [Mustafa] says, ‘It’s late; nobody wants falafel,’ because he knew she was being racist. That was the point of her dressing that way.”

Finally, if you’re looking to watch more Parker Posey movies and join the Parker Posse, the It Girl herself chatted with Letterboxd—in anticipation of her new film Beau is Afraid—about some of her favorite overlooked films from her sprawling indie career.

Clockwatchers, Broken English—that Zoe Cassavetes movie I did—and a Mike Walker movie I did called Price Check,” she told us. “I play a woman who works on the corporate side of the grocery store business and she's just kind of a monster.” Posey saw an acting coach for the role, who encouraged her to ask questions about her character Susan. “Does she have a heart?” was her first. “I just want to know where her feelings are … she doesn't have them, you know? So that was a real fun part.”

Party Girl’ is screening in select US cinemas this week, and is available on Blu-ray, courtesy of Fun City Editions.

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