Opposites Attract: Interview with Steve Adams and Sean Horlor

The Odd Couple, featuring one of the most beloved duos ever portrayed on film, screens Sunday July 21st at Christie Pits Film Festival as part of Toronto Outdoor Picture Show’s summer-long Dynamic Duos series at parks across the city. The film follows the friendship between neat freak Felix Unger and his roommate, the slob Oscar Madison. Paired with The Odd Couple is Brunch Queen, Steve Adams and Sean Harlor’s documentary short about Brian and Patrick, the quirky odd couple who owned the famous Elbow Room Café in Vancouver.

We spoke with Steve Adams and Sean Harlor about their film, and their attraction to opposites.


TOPS: This year’s theme for the festival is Dynamic Duos, and Brunch Queen certainly presents a duo with an interesting dynamic. How did you discover Patrick and Brian, and what made you think they would be such compelling subjects for a documentary? Were you frequenters of Elbow Room? 

Steve Adams (SA): I was a small town gay from Edmonton visiting Vancouver for the first time. I think I was 20 at the time. I remember ordering chocolate milk and Patrick would not stop harassing me about it. I was both deeply ashamed at my hungover chocolate milk addiction and endlessly amused by his antics. It really was a magical place.

Sean Horlor (SH): A friend took me the first time I visited Vancouver back in 2004. I had no idea it was an insult diner. Patrick made me laugh so hard after I ordered a 'Tom Selleck' burger that coffee came out my nose. It was the spot for Sunday morning hangovers after I moved to Vancouver. I wasn't a filmmaker back then and had no idea our paths would cross like this.

TOPS: The subjects of your film blur the lines between naturalistic behaviour and performance. How did this affect your approach as a documentary filmmaker?

SA: The owners of the Elbow Room Cafe, Brian and Patrick, had spent their working lives performing for the people who ate at their restaurant. It might feel like a schtick if you don't know them, but like they say in the film, they really are like that all the time! Before filming, every time we went to eat at the Elbow Room we felt like we were in the middle of a sitcom episode. We immediately thought, let's combine the camera work from a show like The Office with documentary. Brunch Queen is the result. We love films that blur the line between documentary and fiction and these were the perfect characters for that kind of experimentation.


TOPS: Some of your previous films are about youth, while others, like this one, are about senior citizens. Do you find there are differences when making films about people at different ages? Is there anything that surprises you?

SH: One of the best things about making documentaries with retirees is that, for the most part, they are at a stage in life where they aren't afraid of what other people are going to think and don't give a f**k about what they say when a camera is rolling. That's refreshing for a documentary filmmaker, because so much of your time is spent getting subjects comfortable enough to be themselves in front of a camera crew. A big difference in working with younger people is that they are pretty hopeful for the future. Older people tend to be more reflective of the past and have more insight about life...and in the case of Brian and Patrick in our film, their insight on what it takes to be happy across a 40-year romantic relationship.

TOPS: Your film is paired with The Odd Couple, which presents a friendship between two characters who seem like polar opposites. What do you think is the appeal of "odd couple" relationships like this?

SA: Opposites attract! That's why I'm with Sean. 

SH: I'm the one who always says that. Quit stealing my material! 

Odd couple yelling.jpg

TOPS: Who is your favourite cinematic duo, and why?

 SH: Lily Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman in I ♥ Huckabees. They play existential detectives who sneak around and investigate the meaning of the lives of the other characters in the film. Such a funny film and I really ♥ that duo.

SA: Oh god...Patsy and Edina (Absolutely Fabulous), Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito (Twins), Abbi & Ilana (Broad City), Issa Rae and Yvonne Orji (Insecure), and I can't forget Meryl and Goldie from Death Becomes Her. The weirder the better, in my books!

 Brunch Queen screens alongside The Odd Couple (Gene Saks, 1968) on July 21st at Christie Pits Park.