Best of What's Next: Zoe Lister Jones
Hometown: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Movie: Breaking Upwards
For Fans Of: Greta Gerwig, Kristen Wiig, Jason Schwartzman
Zoe Lister Jones was understandably hesitant to share intimate details of her love-life with movie-goers, but the 27-year-old actress/screenwriter’s desire for truthful storytelling won out over propriety. The result was the SXSW breakout hit Breaking Upwards, a trenchant, semi-biographical film about a New York couple who make intricate plans to gradually ease out of monogamy and back into single-dom, co-written by and co-starring Lister Jones and her real-life beau, actor Daryl Wein.
The New York-bred Lister Jones has always favored a visceral approach to depicting the perils of big-city romance, beginning with Codependence is a Four-Letter Word, the one-woman play she wrote and starred in after graduating from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. It dealt with “the question of how to maintain one’s independence in a monogamous relationship,” she says. That’s also a major theme of Breaking Upwards and an unanswerable quandary for the actress herself—which is why she was initially so nervous to share her own story.
“When Daryl proposed that we make this movie, it was simultaneous to us living the film’s experiment,” she says. “I was apprehensive, so I didn’t sign on as co-writer until a year later, when the experiment ended.” She then became possessed by the need to tell their story as a different kind of romantic comedy. “There isn’t real representation of how people in relationships actually behave, particularly our generation,” she says “[…] And there are so few female protagonists in romantic movies you’d actually want identify with.”
Lister Jones and Wein are returning to that thematic well with Lola Versus, about a woman who chooses to re-enter the New York dating scene instead of settling down, against the protestations of her friends. (Lister Jones will also appear in this summer’s Salt alongside Angelina Jolie, and the upcoming All Good Things with Ryan Gosling and Kristen Wiig.) “There’s an archetype that’s hard for studios to shake. Even when you have a female protagonist, she’s still in the cookie-cutter mold of the 1950s housewife,” she laughs. “They haven’t progressed enough to be unglamorous, or really human and raw. I’ve broken down some of those barriers, in my own way. But we’ve got a long way to go.”