Posts Tagged Laura Dern
Year of the Dog 
Starring: Molly Shannon, Laura Dern, Peter Saarsgard, John C. Reilly
Written and directed by: Mike White
now available on Netflix instant
In this touching and surprisingly sensitive film, an emotionally distant woman who has been living her life in a paint-by-numbers manner, suddenly, through a tragic event, begins to learn to let go and live by her own choices and for her own happiness. She has been one of those satisfied people all along. You know the type: okay job, decent car, a few friends, dinner and television at night, a beloved pet for company. An adequate, predictable, ordinary existence.
For years Peggy has held in her true feelings (theatrically-trained Molly Shannon shows enormous depth and range in this role) and suddenly explodes when her dog dies from poison. She looks the other way at work when her boss is inappropriate; she takes it from her uptight sister-in-law (a wonderfully over-the-top neurotic, yuppie Dern) and generally never makes waves.
Now Peggy exhibits all signs of the classic late bloomer. It is not too late for her to lead the life she’s always wanted to lead. She attacks her gun-toting neighbor (John C. Reilly), espouses the benefits of vegetarianism to her niece and adopts every dog in the pound. She also develops a friendship with a dog trainer (Saarsgard) and finds there’s more to her life than going to work every day. White has written an illuminating film about loneliness, desperation and the need to belong. It is a lovely, rewarding little treasure.
created by: Laura Dern, Mike White
starring: Laura Dern, Diane Ladd, Mike White, Sarah Burns, Luke Wilson
Orange is the New Black
created by: Jenji Kohan
based on the memoir by: Piper Kerman
starring: Taylor Schilling, Danielle Brooks, Taryn Manning, Kate Mulgrew, Uzo Aduba, Laverne Cox, Alysia Reiner, Laura Prepon, Dascha Polanco, Jason Biggs, Matt McGorry
House of Cards
starring: Kevin Spacey, Michael Gill, Robin Wright, Kate Mara, Constance Zimmer, Corey Stoll
created by: Matthew Weiner
starring: Jon Hamm, Elisabeth Moss, Vincent Kartheiser, John Slattery, January Jones, Aaron Staton, Kiernan Shipka, Christina Hendricks
created by:Laurie McCarthy, Stephanie Sengupta
starring: Adelaide Kane, Megan Follows, Torrance Coombs, Toby Regbo, Caitlin Stasey
Top of the Lake
written by: Jane Campion, Gerard Lee
directed by: Jane Campion
starring: Elisabeth Moss, Thomas M. Wright, Peter Mullan, Holly Hunter
created by: Lena Dunham
starring: Lena Dunham, Allison Williams, Jemima Kirke, Zosia Mamet
created by: Julian Fellowes
starring: Hugh Bonneville, Phyllis Logan, Elizabeth McGovern, Michelle Dockery, Laura Carmichael, Joanne Froggatt, Rob James-Collier, Maggie Smith
created by: Eric Overmyer, David Simon
starring: Khandi Alexander, Melissa Leo, Clarke Peters, Wendell Pierce, Kim Dickens, Steve Zahn, India Ennenga, Lucia Micarelli
The Carrie Diaries
starring: AnnaSophia Robb, Austin Butler, Katie Findlay
Call the Midwife
created by: Heidi Thomas
starring: Jessica Raine, Bryony Hannah, Helen George, Vanessa Redgrave, Judy Parfitt
The Mindy Project
created by: Mindy Kaling
starring: Mindy Kaling, Chris Messina, Ed Weeks
created by: Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins
starring: Malin Akerman, Bradley Whitford, Marcia Gay Harden, Michaela Watkins, Natalie Morales, Bailee Madison, Ryan Lee, Albert Tsai
created by: Allan Cubitt
starring: Gillian Anderson, Jamie Dornan, Niamh McGrady, John Lynch
starring: Timothy Olyphant, Nick Searcy, Erica Tazel
created by: Armando Iannucci
starring: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Anna Chlumsky, Tony Hale
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
–two seniors (Emma Watson and Ezra Miller) welcome an introverted freshman (Logan Lerman) into their group in this touching, brilliant film
October Sky (1999)
–true story of a coal miner’s son Homer Hickman (Jake Gyllenhaal )–a coal miner’s son inspired by the first Sputnik launch and his high school science teacher (Laura Dern) to take up rocketry. His strict father (Chris Cooper) disapproves. He later works for NASA.
Freedom Writers (2007)
–in her first teaching job, an English teacher (Hilary Swank) inspires her at-risk students to express themselves by keeping journals
–in Harlem in the late 80s, an overweight, abused, illiterate teen (Gabourey Sidibe), pregnant with her second child, is invited to enroll in an alternative school in hopes that her life can head in a new direction.
Dangerous Minds (1995)
–an ex-Marine (Michelle Pfeiffer) takes a teaching job and struggles to connect with her students at an inner-city school
–after telling a white lie to her best friend about having sex with a college freshman, high school student Olive Penderghast (sparkling Emma Stone) decides its best to use her school’s rumor mill to her advantage in this smart comedy.
Dead Poet’s Society (1989)
–prep school. Poetry. Robert Sean Leonard. Ethan Hawke. Robin Williams. Seize the day.
The Breakfast Club (1985)
–“To the outside world they were simply a Brain, an Athlete, a Basket Case, a Princess, and a Criminal, but to each other, they would always be the Breakfast Club.”
The School of Rock (2003)
–substitute teacher (Jack Black) attempts to turn his prep school class into a rock band
Casting for The Fault in Our Stars
Shailene Woodley stars as Hazel Grace while Ansel Elgort plays Augustus Waters. Laura Dern will play Hazel Grace’s mom.
The Fault in Our Stars focuses on two cancer patients, Hazel and Augustus, who fall in love after meeting at a cancer support group.
Filming begins next month in Pittsburgh and is slated for a 2015 theatrical release.
The film will be scored by Bright Eyes members Mike Mogis and Nate Walcott.
Gone Girl Casting
This book was a tough one with very unsympathetic, unlikeable characters particularly Amy Dunne. She will be played by Rosamund Pike [Jack Reacher]. Ben Affleck will play Nick. David Fincher directs, author Gillian Flynn adapted the screenplay and Reese Witherspoon will produce the adaptation.
A Tale of Love and Darkness– Amos Oz memoir
Natalie Portman received a grant from the Jerusalem Film Fund to write, direct and star in an adaptation of Amos Oz’s memoir, A Tale of Love and Darkness. Oz’s memoir takes place in the 1940s and 1950s in war torn Jerusalem.
Last year executive producer Jennifer Aniston and Lifetime started the FIVE film project which brought five female directors together to direct five short films about domestic violence. This year the focus switches to mental illness with films about bipolar disorder, depression, PTSD, schizophrenia and how the illnesses affect friends, family, partners and careers. Bryce Dallas Howard, Laura Dern, Bonnie Hunt, Ashley Judd and Sharon Maguire direct the films.
Brittany Snow plays Lucy, a schizophrenic, in three of the films. In this film she suffers a breakdown during law school as she goes off her meds. She’s institutionalized and meets and befriends Bruce [Jason Ritter]. They spent quite a bit of time in group therapy and walking around on the grounds of this really nice rehab facility. Lucy’s quite shook up and doubtful about her intended career as a lawyer due to her mental health. A psychotherapist [Academy-award winner Octavia Spencer] convinces her to use her illness to her advantage. Snow’s quite talented. Very impressive and emotive in this role. Not too theatrical or flat. She’s just right. Truly convincing.
With a single mom, played by the venerable Melissa Leo, suffering from bipolar disorder her teenaged daughter [Sarah Hyland] must effectively become the parent. When her mom endures manic and depressive episodes, she hides them from her friends as it’s difficult to explain and embarrassing as a teenager to have an abnormal mom. One afternoon her mom takes her friends on a shopping spree and Grace witnesses her becoming frighteningly unhinged. Hyland and Leo have a strong connection. Director Laura Dern captures the manic and depressive episodes quite well with colors and camera movement.
When Lucy [Snow] returns home it’s to the dismay of her younger sister Allison [Sofia Vassilieva] who brought her boyfriend to meet her parents and never expected to see her sister who she considers unstable. She’s not very understanding or supportive to Lucy. Finally she says, “I’m not afraid of you. I’m afraid of becoming you.” It turns out that Allison’s been worried that she’d develop schizophrenia just like Lucy.
Eddie [Mitch Rouse] is a comedian with depression. How could that be possible? He’s married and has plenty of friends too. Depression isn’t about one’s environmental situation. It’s about brain chemistry. Eddie’s in such despair and pain that he’s contemplating suicide. He’s become much darker than usual. Only his wife [Lea Thompson] recognizes this about him though.
Ashley Judd directs Jennifer Hudson as a soldier returning home after repeatedly being raped by her superior officer. She’s suffering from PTSD and ends up having her son taken away from her. Lucy is back and she’s representing Maggie. When Maggie isn’t too keen on it being Lucy’s first case Lucy explains that she understands what it’s like for others not to understand about her mental health. Lucy says: “I have seen thousands of spiders running up my best friend’s face.”
There’s such a strong stigma regarding mental illness that makes it difficult for people to honestly discuss. Anyone who has a mental illness or knows someone with a mental illness will understand and recognize the struggles faced by those in the films. There’s constant maintenance and vigilance. It takes a support system and perseverance. For someone who doesn’t know someone with mental illness perhaps these short films will dispel some misconceptions.
CALL ME CRAZY airs SATURDAY, APRIL 20 on LIFETIME at 8 PM ET/PST
Laura Dern directed “Grace” one of the five short films which comprise CALL ME CRAZY: A Five Film. It airs on Lifetime Saturday April 18 at 8 p.m. This is the second film that Dern’s directed [her first film was a short back in the 90s]. She said she’s been contemplating directing for quite some time. Some of Dern’s films include Citizen Ruth, We Don’t Live Here Any More, Jurassic Park, Blue Velvet, Rambling Rose and October Sky. Most recently Dern starred in the fantastic series Enlightened on HBO.
Amy Steele: Hi Laura.
Laura Dern: Hey.
Amy Steele: I loved Enlightened by the way.
Laura Dern: Thank you Amy. That’s hilarious. Not that I’m saying there are any similarities, but every time I meet an Amy now I feel so close to them because I love the name so much because I love that character.
Amy Steele: So how did you prepare to direct?
Laura Dern: You know, I mentioned earlier it was really run and gun. We actually were finishing Enlightened in the middle of this, so it was a really insane time for me. It was literally a matter of days.
I got the call and they needed to start immediately. Mine was the first one up. So it was literally a matter of –I think– five days between, “hey can we send a script over” and needing to be on a set with a cast, a crew and a vision. So good news and bad news is I think I didn’t have time to even figure out what I needed to know. I just had to go for it.
I love working with actors. I’ve done it my whole life. I’ve been raised by them so I don’t have a lot of fear about that. It feels quite natural to me, I guess. I felt surprised by my awareness of where the camera should be. That seemed natural too oddly and luckily for me I had the brilliant DP, Gail Tattersall, who came and shot it. He and I were in sync about the vision as he supported me immensely.
The part that I think was hardest was just, you know, scheduling the day (time management), making sure actors had the time in something this emotional and shifting locations and all of that. Just the real producerial managing of getting your work done in a very, very short window is probably the area I learned the most from and had the most to learn about.
Amy Steele: There’s a clear difference between the manic and depressive scenes. Darker when she’s having depressive episodes and real quick scenes, brighter colors during her manic scenes when she takes the girls shopping and everything. What approach did you take for the different scenes?
Laura Dern: You know, relying on a totally brilliant actor like Melissa Leo. Really spending time talking through it before we started and spending time speaking to specialists and someone I know who has the disorder. Making sure that Melissa felt comfortable with really understanding the highs, the lows, and the in-between. You know, the medicated version which was important to me that when we did the un-medicated version, it’s not healed.
It’s all about degrees with the disorder and really trying to stay true to that, when someone comes off a manic episode like how they come down off of it. So in a very short time, there were scenes which dealt with every single one of those things, so I think it was more spending time with Melissa and making sure we knew exactly what that was and hoping to capture that in at least one take in each area so that people could really feel the differentiation.