Annie Hall. Pretty Woman. Bull Durham. These movies are now considered classics and staples in the recently resurgent romantic comedy genre. Now, some of the stars of those films — Diane Keaton, Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon — have teamed with Fargo actor William H. Macy for Maybe I Do, a rom-com that’s not, in the words of its director, particularly romantic or comedic.
What it turns out to be is, surprisingly, a rumination of the high cost a long-term marriage can bring, and whether or not it’s even worth it. Digital Trends talked to the film’s director, veteran writer and producer Michael Jacobs, about how he came up with the idea in the 1970s and how his famous actors collaborated with each other to depict honest portrayals of marriage.
Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Digital Trends: Your background is primarily in writing for such TV shows as Charles in Charge and Boy Meets World and producing Quiz Show, which was nominated for Best Picture. What made you decide to direct your first feature-length film now with Maybe I Do?
Michael Jacobs: Well, this story has always been with me. It was originally a play called Cheaters that ran briefly in 1978 at the Biltmore Theater on Broadway. I was 22 years old and had written what was ostensibly a farce about men and women, their behavior toward each other, what they hope to aspire to, and what life did to them. After I finished Girl Meets World in 2017, I started thinking about what I might like to do. And the idea struck me that because I had lived an entire life, I should go back to that story and see how I would write it today.
In the movie, you have Richard Gere married to Diane Keaton, and Susan Sarandon partnered with William H. Macy. At a certain point, all four of them begin to step outside the confines of their marriages. Can you talk about working with those actors and developing their relationships with each other?
It was a completely wonderful experience from start to finish because you’re working with these actors who are just spectacular at what they do. With Richard, each moment resonated with him. He wanted to tell the truth about his character and his relationship to his wife and his mistress.
If you watch the relationship between Richard and Susan Sarandon (who plays his mistress), it looks easy. It’s banter. It’s funny. They have an easy relationship. That’s largely because Richard and Susan have known each other for a long time.
And then when you watch the relationship between Richard and Diane, especially upon his entrance to the house for the first time, it’s stilted. It’s difficult because this is the hard relationship. This is the one that’s forever. And he knows that he has cheated on her.
And Diane also knows what she’s done; she’s had an emotional affair with Bill Macy, not a physical one, which may be the rougher of the two. And you watch these two people have a hard time dealing with that reality. What the movie says is love is in constant conversation. It’s wanting to tell a particular person everything that happens to you.
Maybe I Do takes the concept of marriage or a lifelong friendship very seriously and argues that even if you find the person that you love, that’s not enough. You have to tend to the relationship and to them. You have to remind the other person that you love them.
It’s very astute for you to pick that out. Maybe I Do is not a romantic comedy. And that’s a tough thing to say because it’s going to be marketed as one. Of course, it’s the right way to market the movie, but it isn’t. And it wasn’t what I set out to do.
Maybe I Do is an observation of what happens in a marriage, not what a marriage is. What I was trying to do was simply show that in life we have these moments of comedy and we have these moments that become tragic. We don’t intend for them to be comedic. We don’t intend for them to turn dramatic. But there it is. And so I gave a balance as best I could.
Maybe I Do is currently playing in theaters.