Last night I saw Maggie Gyllenhaal in "Sherrybaby," and then I saw Maggie Gyllenhaal at "Sherrybaby." I went to a showing where she did a Q&A after the film. I had planned on going to earlier, but when I checked the times in the Times and saw that she'd be at the 7:30, I immediately went and bought tickets.
I got there early, at what I thought was way too early, so wandered over to sit in a park for a bit, watching some neighborhood basketball, and when I got back found myself at the end of a really long line. (It was inside the building, so not visible when I'd walked by.) As it turned out, the front row was the best to satisfy my claustrophobic tendencies (a theater with no middle aisle, when sold out, means you are either in a good center-viewing seat but trapped by bodies on all sides, or languishing on the aisle with limited view of the screen) and I got a seat right in the center of row one. Which later meant just inches in front of Ms. Gyllenhaal. So close I could examine her pedicure and watch the wide arcs with which she rubbed her very pregnant belly. (No, I'm not a stalker, although it's slightly possible the young guy sitting next to me was. He told me where she lived, moved from side to side of me several times, trying to anticipate the exact placement of the stool she would perch on, and followed her to the exit door to try to get her to pose with him for a photo, a request she denied with a smile.)
The film was really fantastic, and as it really is a pure performance piece, it was incredible to have her sit in front of us and discuss her feelings about making it. Someone suggested she deserved an Oscar nomination for it, although I've heard that also about her role in "World Trade Center" (which could be the only reason I could see it - no, I still won't. As has been said many times more eloquently than I can, a film like that seems made for people who weren't here, but want to connect to the tragedy, while those of us who were don't need it. And, of course, I hate heavily sentimental films.)
So what did she say of interest? She didn't rehearse for this movie, but she hates rehearsing as a rule. Sherry, her character in this film, has just been released from 3 years in prison, and is reconnecting with family that never visited her or saw her, so she felt that there should be some discomfort in their scenes. (I'm paraphrasing; no journalistic note-taking.) She felt that the young girl who played her daughter (age six, although I would have thought more like 4) came across too actress-y at first, and she struggled with the director, who had opposing ideas of how to coach a more natural performance out of her. How did Gyllenhaal feel about the sex scenes? She said she feels much more uncomfortable watching them after than she did filming them. While filming them, she was concentrating on how Sherry was enjoying herself, even as the sex was raw and uncomfortable and destructive. She hadn't had a man in three years, she was out and free, and she wanted pleasure, even if to the rest of us it looks anything but pleasurable. She also said that sex is a way of communicating fully with another person, so sex scenes provide opportunities for a different kind of acting.
About choosing roles, she said she chooses those she feels drawn to. When asked who else she'd like to work with, she said Pedro Almodovar, and, after seeing "Half Nelson," Ryan Gosling.
It's funny, because when I think about it, "Sherrybaby" is both a companion piece and the polar opposite of "Half Nelson." They both are intimate portraits of addicts trying to cope in the world, both with controlled, quiet performances. Both characters connect, or try to connect, with children, and falter in the world of adult relationships. Yet Gosling's character has found a way to function while feeding his addiction, and Gyllenhaal's has repeatedly failed at managing hers.
I'm sorry these pictures aren't any better. I am having a bear of a time uploading into Blogger. I think I've bitched about this before, how I always have this problem at home (where my photos, for the most part, are, and where I have the time to post) but rarely at work. So maybe it's a firewall setting or something. But I uploaded three different stills about a dozen times each, and each time the process finishes, says its "Done," but nothing appears in the post. I tried to do it manually, writing my own html code based on what I see in successful uploads, but I'm not very good at it. My point was to show how similarly the films have been marketed, with stills of the main characters quietly alone on a city street, facing the camera, defiant and yet struggling.
Go see both films if you can.