Friday, 19 October 2012

Finally a Star Worthy of the Title!

I'm not the type to drool over Hollywood notables, but of course there are a few people of the movie persuasion for whom I have admiration. Some of this admiration I confess is visceral, James Spader and Val Kilmer I adore because of their roles, and talent, but also because there is something about them physically that probably connects to my female heterosexuality. When it comes to women actors however, for me there is one head and shoulders above the rest (metaphorically and not physically as she is quite petite)  and that person is Lili Taylor.  Many people don't recognize the name, but few have forgotten her as Lisa in Six Feet Under or as the memorable character in Say Anything who sings the immortal song about her ex-boyfriend "Joe Lies!"

Last night I had the opportunity to meet this amazing person. This is not the first time I've had brushes with greatness and without giving details I will simply say I have been sorely disappointed. For once however this was not the case.

Last night my small local liberal arts college held a showing of Being Flynn with writer Nick Flynn and his wife Lili Taylor in attendance. It was sponsored by the Literary Arts Institute, an organization that helps promote creative writing and the liberal arts. If you haven't seen the film, it is one I can recommend highly. The story tells of a young man who is a little lost and who gets a job in a homeless shelter only to have his estranged father turn up in need of assistance.

Robert De Niro does an impressive job of playing the alcoholic father, who has aspirations of being a great writer. (Or more properly who knows he is a great writer, despite the fact that no one has ever seen his infamous and ever worked -upon manuscript The Butt Man). This is the kind of deeply nuanced character role that De Niro was born to play and he does so masterfully and with no holds barred.

In the film, young Flynn played by Paul Dano must learn to cope with what he learns (and doesn't learn) about his father and learn also about dealing with people who live on the street.

The supporting cast is marvelous (more of an ensemble cast really) with Lili Taylor playing a co-worker at the shelter and Julianne Moore playing young Flynn's put upon mother.

It is a realistic portrayal of those who live on the street (for the most part)  unsugared by Hollywood plot devices and saccharine escapism. The film is dark, gritty and in general true - based on Nick Flynn's memoir Another Bullshit Night in Suck City. See it if you have the stomach for a little reality in your movies! See it even if you don't!

Afterwards we were treated to a question and answer session with the two-time PEN award winning poet. And treat is the operative word. Flynn answered questions about changes in the film from his book. (Time was sometimes collapsed and there was no meeting with his father in Flynn's apartment) and about his feelings about working on the memoir (difficult and needing distance on a regular basis - but that is a part of the writing process.) He said he doesn't feel he knows his father even after spending time with him - one of the legacies of the father's extravagant tales and alcoholism. He therefore advised the children of the homeless, if they were seeking advice to listen and pay attention. Of course that is good advice no matter what.

Nick Flynn talked fondly of watching the film with his father in his Living Community and having to repeat the lines of the film as they watched on a laptop, because the big community TV was being used for sing-along time. Best of all he read a poem and spoke of art, describing it as providing a scrim for the audience to project their views upon, an idea he credits to his wife Lili Taylor.

Lili sat nearby and listened and refused to steal the spotlight from her deserving husband.

The lighting in the room was absolutely horrific (brutal overhead lights that created a reverse Frankenstein effect) so I could not get a decent photo, but fortunately my friends saw to it that I got a chance to converse with the actress after the discussion.

So what was she really like? She was gentle and down to earth and oh so kind. She listened patiently to praise I'm sure she has heard a thousand times and was gracious and warm.  We talked about the Midwest, the horror films she has been in  and her roles in The Addiction, I Shot Andy Warhol and The Haunting. There were so many specific things I would have loved to ask, but we kept it light and at the end she gave me an autograph and I got to have my picture taken with her.  She told me she will be in a film coming out next year called The Conjuring. She says it will be really scary and since it is directed by James Wan (who did Saw) I believe her. Look forward to ghosts in a New England setting (but filmed in North Carolina)!

And while you are waiting for The Conjuring go see Being Flynn and while you are at it read a poem. It is important to take time out for the arts and you don't need to wait for a poem to come to a theater (or red box) near you!

1 comment:

Prunella Farquar said...

I'm glad that you got to meet her and were not disappointed. She's lucky to have gotten to meet you too.