Emily Taheny finds honesty and humour in ‘The Flip Side’

Emily Taheny and Susie Youssef in ‘The Flip Side.’

When Emily Taheny was offered her first feature film lead role in Marion Pilowsky’s romantic comedy The Flip Side, she was immediately struck by an art-imitates-life parallel.

Her character Ronnie is having a meltdown: her Adelaide restaurant is failing, she’s deeply in debt and doesn’t feel that she can confide in her boyfriend Jeff (Luke McKenzie).

Life gets even more complicated when her ex-boyfriend Henry (Eddie Izzard), an English movie star with whom she had a torrid affair that ended badly five years earlier, turns up with his glamorous French girlfriend (Vanessa Guide).

Taheny once dated a comedian from the UK with whom she went on a trip to the outback, but the relationship fell apart. “The difference is he didn’t come back so in the film I had to use my imagination about what might have happened if he did,” she tells IF.

Co-funded by Screen Australia and the South Australian Film Corp., the film opens on Thursday on about 120 screens via 20th Century Fox.

First-time writer-director Pilowsky cast Taheny after seeing her in an episode of True Story with Hamish & Andy directed by Wayne Hope.

The Adelaide-born actor is best known for her comedic work in Shaun Micallef’s Mad As Hell, The Ex-PM, Behave Yourself, Get Krack!n, The Big Music Quiz and Open Slather.

Last week she was seen as Dave O’Neil’s neurotic on-screen wife in Dave, part of Network Ten’s Pilot Week.

Pilowsky gave her some valuable advice on the first day on set: Pull back your performance, this is film, not TV. Izzard was amused by the improvised characters she played on set each day between takes and encouraged her to do stand-up. That thought terrifies her as she acknowledges, “I like hiding behind characters.”

She said of Ronnie: “It’s not often that there’s a female protagonist in your age range who’s complex. She’s not your conventionally beautiful character. She’s messy. She’s got baggage that’s she’s dealing with.

“The film is about honesty to others and to yourself, loyalty to your family and to yourself. It’s about love and ambition and desire and unrequited love and residual love – when your relationships just fail and there’s no closure, and then suddenly they come back into your life and maybe the love that you don’t know you were still holding onto. It’s about facing up to the truth of the past, dissecting it and moving forward with your life.”

Taheny and Jess Harris co-created and starred in the online comedy Wine, a bottle shared is a problem halved, a spin-off of a sketch Harris devised for Open Slather. Produced by Princess Pictures, the show follows the duo as best friends who get together on a Friday night and review the week’s events over a bottle of wine.

They produced four episodes which launched on Facebook and are keen to do more – if they can figure out how to monetise the show.