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The power of color in the look of 'My Lunatic Lucy'
Wardrobe/costume designer Gratannia Panjaitan tells how she heightened the characters and emotion of the film My Lunatic Lucy.

Wardrobe/costume designer Gratannia Panjaitan grew up in Indonesia, never celebrating the American Thanksgiving holiday but that didn’t stop her from creating the perfect appearance of this family centered tradition with her work for the film My Lunatic Lucy. Films depicting the good and bad aspects of the holiday are prolific. From Home For The Holidays (starring Oscar winner Holly Hunter, Oscar nominated Robert Downey Jr., Oscar winner Anne Bancroft) to Scent of a Woman (multiple Academy Award nominations and Oscar winner for Al Pacino as Best Actor), the dysfunctional nature of Thanksgiving is a keystone of many films including My Lunatic Lucy.

The story involves many characters but is definitely centered and driven by the title’s namesake. When eighteen-year-old Josh meets Lucy, he quickly falls for her but overlooks indicators that may give a glimpse to her shortcomings. He is excited to take her home for Thanksgiving, unaware of what will transpire. Lead actress Jolie Chi played Lucy and declares, “Lucy is absolutely crazy. When I first read the script, I thought she was going to murder Josh and everyone in his family. Thankfully that wasn’t the case; she isn’t a psychopath, just extremely spoiled and immature. She’s really pretty and does very well in school but there’s always the feeling that there’s something off about her.” The movie won Best Acting Ensemble and Best Actress at Top Indie Film Awards 2018 as well as Best Comedy at the Independent Shorts Awards 2018.

Gratannia’s preparation for this film started in a manner congruent to that of her fellow crew and cast members, with the script. However, the details for a wardrobe/costume designer diversify there. In addition to the details of style that inform an audience about the character, Panjaitan takes color and events in the action of the film into account. She explains, “When creating the wardrobe design there are so many factors. I’m designing a look that nonverbally creates the essence of the characters but in the way that the camera catches things. For example, if wine is spilled on a shirt, the color of the wine and shirt may not look right when it gets wet and therefore effect my decision of color. Of course, color has to work with other department as well. That’s why preproduction meetings including the Director of Photography and Production Designer are so important. It’s like painting on one canvas; we’re putting colors in one frame.”

Within this framework, Gratannia created a look for the main characters with emphasis on color (conferring with director Wanyin Tang). The early presentation of Lucy was presented with an earth color scheme for warmth and innocence while later cloaked in angered maroon. Josh wears a simple blue button-down to contrast with his manic love interest. This color communicates his strong work ethic and calm demeanor. Josh’s outspoken Aunt Nora is draped in patterned outfits which complement her boisterousness while his cousin Catalina is clothed in sexy attire with bright colors. 

While the most obvious and eccentric of costume attire receive attention in the media and with audiences, the peers Panjaitan works within the industry seek her out for her shrewd ability to apply subtle cues via the wardrobe that imply intentions and personality traits. Choices made by costume designers like Gratannia give us cues about the psychology of the characters in a manner similar to how advertisers steer us as consumers. They tell a lot about who we want to be and therefore who we actually are. Designs, colors, etc. imply parts of our personality and desires. My Lunatic Lucy shows a perfect symbiotic relationship between the talent of Gratannia and the film’s cast.

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