by Vera von Kreutzbruck
- Germany -
Unlike many actors in the film industry, Parker Posey’s aspiration is not to be an A-list Hollywood star. Her career path has circumvented mainstream filmmaking, which – in her own words – does not produce singular voices or tell human stories.
In her quest for authentic storytelling, she has opted for riskier projects. Barely forty, Posey already has 53 movie credits to her name. Some of her most memorable and celebrated roles have required taut emotional performances, portraying mostly eccentric and conflicted women. She is well known for her turns in Party Girl, where she played a hard partying 20-something in New York City, Best in Show as a hilariously high-strung dog owner and the controversial art film, House of Yes which deals with incest. Her sporadic appearances in blockbuster movies can be counted on one hand with small parts in Scream 3, Superman Returns and You’ve got Mail.
What challenges did you face portraying your character in Happy Tears?
This was a great part. The movies that are produced now don’t have a lot of subtext in them. But Happy Tears has a singular voice and interesting psychology – it shows people’s souls. It’s about the individual experiences of people with their families and their love lives. My character Jayne is someone who is in a certain emotional state. In the script, there is a scene that ended up being cut but that describes her well. My sister Laura tells me: “You are so susceptible. You could be carried away to any current in the ocean.”
One of the things Mitchell said to me that scared me was that Jayne doesn’t know who she is. And that is a scary place to be – to be someone who doesn’t know who they are. You can see her go down and drown right in front of your eyes, just being carried away to whatever is going on inside her imagination. I felt very lost acting this part. One of the challenges in acting is to try to discern the line, if there is one, between where you are and where your character is.
Did you sympathize with her?
Yes, of course. I totally sympathize with her. We’ve all been like that. We’ve all had trouble. The older you get the easier you can spot someone who is having trouble, and the more you can help them out.
Can you tell us a bit about the relationship between the sisters?
From a very young age Laura felt the need to protect her younger sister from the truth of what was going on in the family and for whatever reason, Jayne couldn’t see the truth. Laura throws all sorts of hints to Jayne about their dad and Jayne is too lost to see it.Denial is very real. People can really live in denial and that is a big part of what Jayne is doing. But I think by her behavior she is asking to know. It’s very behavioral how she is always curling up to her sister, hugging her – she wants to know the truth. This happens with families. Some people are attracted to people they can take care of and there is a certain psychological need. In this movie we see that there is a major lack of communication about something that is very real. There is a lot that is left unspoken.
In the opening scene of the movie Jayne phones her sister to tell her that she will not make it to the airport to visit their ailing father, but instead she is shopping. What does this scene say about your character?
We talked about that with Mitchell. She lies about being able to get to the airport to her sister very easily and immediately. She goes and buys herself a pair of $2,000 boots. They are like armor to her – she thinks that they are going to protect her. She has all this money but it is getting her nothing. As protection, it’s not really working.
Society in general doesn’t teach us about how to deal with aging. Did this topic affect you during the shooting of the movie?
Yes, it totally affected me. Just working with Rip Torn affected me. I wish we had a better relationship with aging because older people have wise things to say. American culture is not supportive at all. That makes me sad. I like the approach [Native Americans] have with aging. They value [the elderly] much more, and most importantly, they don’t lose this feeling of belonging in society. They share their experiences with the young and they listen.
What do you think about Mitchell Lichtenstein’s portrayal of the female experience in this movie?
Usually male directors tend to put women on a pedestal, but that did not happen with this story. It’s rare for directors to have their own voice. There is a lack of movies now [that] portray [real] human beings. These kinds of movies are very hard to get produced now.
Why don’t you work in Hollywood movies?
I can’t do it. It’s weird. It has to do with where my interests lay. It’s not about not doing something, it’s about what is interesting to me. I auditioned for a couple of these movies lately and I couldn’t do it. I just wasted 45 minutes of this person’s time.
The media has labeled you as the “Queen of Indie Cinema.”
I’m forty years old and they still call me “It Girl” and stuff like that. It’s really weird. But female journalists do it too.
Do you find it as a sign of disrespect?
Yes, I do. It’s not easy in this business as a woman to have integrity. I was just reading a piece from a journalist who was writing about her experience at Sundance and they called me “It Girl” and “Indie Chick.” Why?
I’m always frustrated at the lack of depth and things that are happening right now in our culture. Maybe the Internet is going to change that. Right now it’s not.
Be sure to read Vera's series of interviews from this year's Berlinale - with actress Tilda Swinton and director Sally Potter. - Ed.
About the Author
Vera von Kreutzbruck was born in Argentina. She started her career in journalism at the English language newspaper, Buenos Aires Herald. After a fellowship in Germany three years ago, she decided to settle in Berlin. She currently works as a freelance journalist contributing to media in Europe and Latin America. Her articles focus on international news and culture in Germany and the European Union.