"I love this movie," Jake Johnson tells Mashable in a phone interview about his upcoming Netflix feature Win It All. "I’m not positive everyone’s gonna love it because we all have different tastes…but if I sat down to watch a Netflix movie and I watched this movie, I would be happy I clicked on it."
It may seem like a no-brainer for the co-writer of a movie to give it his endorsement, but it’s rarer than you’d think in Hollywood and important to Johnson and director Joe Swanberg.
"I don’t want to have a thing where I go ‘I’m selling this movie trying to get people to watch it and I think it’s dog shit, and I just want people to watch it so a studio can make a lot of money,’" Johnson adds. "Fuck, pass."
Johnson, best known for New Girl, stars in Win It All as petty gambler Eddie Garrett. Eddie is doing his best to stay clean when a friend leaves him the custodian of a duffel bag full of cash. "Oh, fuck me," he says with the cadence of an explicit Nick Miller. "Oh no, oh no, oh no, oh no. Holy shit."
Eddie tries to stay away from the money but ends up betting it and losing big.
"This is a movie about a guy who has a problem, but there are such things as second chances," Johnson says. "At least me as a filmmaker, I think if somebody really does you wrong…it might be okay to forgive them. And I think Eddie as a person, even though he’s fucked up a lot, I don’t think he’s a bad guy and I don’t think he means to hurt people."
The movie has its ties to reality, though it’s not anecdotal. When he first moved to Los Angeles, Johnson worked at a casino in Inglewood, where he spent his nights in the company of "super nice people who were just degenerate gamblers."
"It just started this obsession I’ve had with kind of the ‘fringe gambler’ — a different kind of gambler than like the cool Vegas gambler who pulls up to the Sunset Strip in a convertible," Johnson says. "There’s the underbelly of that which I found way more interesting."
In Johnson and Swanberg’s third collaboration, the duo took to Netflix, mostly as an experiment. They want to do nine movies together in the long run, "to actually have a collaboration that grows and changes as we grow and change," and Win It All will test the waters for a future with Netflix.
Beyond that, their creative process has also evolved. The "carefree" Drinking Buddies was shot with a small cast and crew, while its followup, Digging for Fire enlisted big name actors and with that, big name egos and ideas. For an improvised film, too many cooks can be detrimental, so Johnson looked to his work as an improviser and to trying to make his castmates laugh on New Girl. He shares most of his scenes in Win It All with Joe Lo Truglio, Keegan-Michael Key, and Aislinn Derbez.
"I view movies the same as if you’re sitting around a campfire telling a good story," Johnson says. "There’s twists and turns in that story, there’s moments in that story that are really tense, but when the story wraps up I like it to wrap up in a way where you get to say like ‘Hey, that was a really good story. I’m glad I heard it.’"
"As I got deeper into this career I realized that’s kind of how I want to make things," he adds. "I want people to end and go ‘Yeah, I liked it. I’m happy I watched it’ rather than ‘Jesus, gambling is a dark fucking world.’ I think we all know how dark our world can be, I don’t think we need to constantly be reminded of it, especially with our entertainment."
Win It All is now streaming on Netflix.