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Mystic native Nico Raineau directs his first feature film, but coronavirus closures mean it will only be seen on TV or computer screens

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The good news: After years of dreaming of directing his own feature film, Mystic native Nico Raineau has done it.

He helmed “Hooking Up,” a new romantic comedy starring Brittany Snow (whose credits include the “Pitch Perfect” films) and Sam Richardson (“Veep”).

The not-so-good news: The movie was scheduled to open Friday in 10 theaters around the country, but that won't be happening because of coronavirus closures.

"Hooking Up" will, however, become available starting Friday on iTunes and on demand, as previously planned.

"Obviously I'm disappointed that the film will no longer be seen in cinemas. Having my first feature get a theatrical release was a huge accomplishment. It's a comedy, and so I do feel it's best enjoyed with shared laughter, but this has become a public safety issue and I support the decision," he says of the decision that was ultimately made by the distributors. "Given the unprecedented circumstances we're all experiencing, I'm just fortunate to have a movie that's still coming out at all. With so many other films having postponed their release and with not many new films for people to watch right now, I hope that people find or gravitate toward ours and that possibly even more people will see it now than maybe would have otherwise."

The movie had been many years in the making. Raineau had the idea for it for about a decade.

“I tried getting it started on my own a few times, trying to crack my script. But it wasn’t really until I started collaborating creatively with my then-girlfriend, now wife (Lauren Schacher). We started writing the script together, and that’s when it really took shape,” he says.

Raineau notes that the movie has really spanned the trajectory of their relationship, and consequently the film is personal to them.

“This one is a particularly special one because Lauren and I started writing the movie together when we were dating (they met in 2013), and by the nature of what the movie is about, we had to have a lot of intimate conversations and learned a lot about each other and our past relationships. By the time we started sending it out to producers, we were engaged. When we first started casting the movie, it was the week of our wedding. We spent the first two years as newlyweds making the movie. And now it’s out.”

What’s the story?

In “Hooking Up,” Snow plays Darla, who is fired from her magazine job as a sex columnist and has to face the fact that she is a sex addict. She goes into therapy and, during a group session, she meets Bailey (Richardson), who is in the midst of his second bout with testicular cancer. He had been in love with the same woman since high school. He survived testicular cancer the first time around, but their relationship broke up in the process. She asked him how they know they are meant to be together if they haven’t been with anyone else. He takes that to mean she wants him to go be with someone else for a while and then get back together.

And Darla, misinterpreting an assignment in her sex addict recovery group, decides to go on a road trip to relive her sexual history — with Bailey.

The movie also stars Jordana Brewster as Snow’s boss and Vivica A. Fox as Richardson’s mother.

Discussing the concept for the film, Raineau says, “I was always really intrigued by the idea of having to sort of relive your sexual history with one other person because there’s so much humor, I think, that can come from that, just thinking about the places you’d have to go back to, the places you’d have to sneak into, break into — I just think that’s really ripe for hijinks.

“On the other side of that same coin is having to open yourself up and be vulnerable and sharing those aspects of yourself with other people, like why were you in that relationship, why were you in that place? And revealing who you were at different times in your life. I think it’s a really intimate experience to have to share with someone else, especially someone maybe you don’t know very well. The juxtaposition of those two ideas, the comedy of it but also the vulnerability of it, I thought, would make a compelling centerpiece for the story.”

Lead characters who are a sex addict and a testicular cancer patient might not be obvious choices for a romantic comedy. But Raineau says filmmakers are always looking for a unique way into a familiar genre and for new and compelling characters who have a story to tell.

He and Schacher have been fortunate not to have had cancer or addiction issues themselves, so they did extensive research on both subjects.

From Mystic to Affleck

During his years in Connecticut, Raineau was happily involved with the arts. He loved acting as a kid but became interested in directing while in high school; he graduated from Robert E. Fitch Senior High School in Groton in 2005.

He earned a BFA in film production from Emerson College in Boston. Right after getting his degree, he was hired as assistant to Ben Affleck on the 2010 film “The Town,” on which Affleck was director, actor and co-screenwriter.

Raineau then spent several years working in development in the movie industry, including at Robert Downey Jr.’s Team Downey production company.

In 2015, he made it to the top 10 of the HBO series “Project Greenlight,” with young filmmakers competing for the chance to direct a feature film. The series, coincidentally, was co-produced by Affleck.

After that, in addition to writing and developing “Hooking Up,” Raineau directed a couple of episodes of “Zach and Mia” on Hulu and directed a pilot for YouTube Originals. He also is attached to write and direct the biography of Ida Lewis (1842-1911), a Newport lighthouse keeper known for her many rescues of people.

25 locations in 17 days

“Hooking Up” was shot over the course of 17 days in Dallas in February 2019. And there were more than 25 locations. It was, Raineau says, a full sprint.

“The thing that I don’t think I realized before making my first film as a director, so much of what happens is outside your control, so a lot of it is just getting lucky and surrounding yourself with people more talented than you and keeping everybody on track and steering everybody to a specific vision for what the movie is,” he says.

The world we live in

In “Hooking Up,” the lead actress is white and the lead actor is black, but race isn’t discussed in the movie — and that is on purpose.

“We’ve all seen plenty of romantic comedies about two beautiful white folks, and we’ll get many more, but that’s not the movie I wanted to make. I wanted to make a movie that represented the world that we live in. Intentionally not talking about that is the point because that’s not supposed to be the point. Who people are shouldn’t be part of the conversation. We should just allow everybody to be judged on who they are as an individual,” he says.

‘We wanted to do a feminist romantic comedy’

Early on in writing what would become “Hooking Up,” Raineau considered focusing on two people who were already a couple, but that meant the only place to go, plot-wise, was a breakup. That would become an inherently depressing tale.

“I thought that this particular story would be so much more joyful if it was more of a love story about falling in love or realizing what love is and what the foundation of a healthy relationship should be,” he says.

Raineau adds that a lot of romantic comedies are about a man saving a woman or a woman teaching a man the error of his ways. Instead, he and Schacher “wanted to do a feminist romantic comedy that was about two people who give each other the tools to save themselves. It’s not until they come to terms with what they’re experiencing and heal themselves that they can enter into a healthy relationship.”

Where to see 'Hooking Up'

For people who are staying home because of the threat of the coronavirus, here's viewing news: they can see "Hooking Up" via iTunes and on demand starting Friday.

"Hooking Up" had been scheduled to hit 10 cinemas in the U.S. on the same day, with the theater closest to southeastern Connecticut being Cinema Village in Greenwich Village. But with closings due to coronavirus concerns, that won't be happening.

The coronavirus also caused the cancellation of the movie's premiere, which had been scheduled for March 11 at the iconic TCL Chinese Theatre in L.A.



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