‘Glee’ Actress Jessalyn Gilsig Makes History With ‘Vikings’ & ‘Somewhere Slow’

“If I was a Viking, I would never survive. I’d be dead by nine years old,” says Jessalyn Gilsig, the actress who plays the quietly powerful Siggy in the History Channel’s first-ever scripted series, Vikings, opposite Gabriel Byrne. So perhaps it’s best that the viciously primitive, seafaring lifestyle of the Viking world is confined to the TV screen – a place Gilsig has found herself consistently, in roles on hit shows like Glee, Boston Public, and Nip/Tuck.

While her characters have ranged from unpredictable and fiery, to still and insightful, the Montreal native has discovered one common thread that unites them all: love. "They’re women who are really driven – for better or worse – by love and the difficulty of making the best decisions.” Siggy, who’s the Earl’s (Byrne’s) insightful and observant wife, acts as moral compass and motivator to her reigning husband.

But this year, with the debut of Somewhere Slow – an indie film hitting festivals nationwide this spring – Gilsig leaps into unprecedented roles in front of and behind the camera, with her premiere as both the star and a producer. The film follows Anna Thompson, an unhappy skin care sales rep who gets mixed up in a convenience store robbery and makes the split-second decision to walk out of her life and start anew. The film, written and directed by Jeremy O’Keefe, also stars Robert Forster (The Descendants) and David Costabile (Breaking Bad).  

“I never thought I’d get to play Anna,” she says. “I thought she should be played by a bigger star. But when they cast me, I said, ‘If I’m going to do this, then I need to take the risk with you and come on as a producer.’ And it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.”

And the hardest too. Gilsig quickly learned the tremendous work behind not just screenplay development, but also film production – finding a composer, casting, mixing – which actors on set and in a trailer are rarely exposed to.

“I never knew how the room got dressed before with chairs and tables, how actors were scheduled to get there,” she says. “I learned never to ask for a bottle of water again.”

Gilsig’s newfound love of production has trickled into her writing as well. During her breaks on set, she works on several different scripts at a time, and also makes time for one of her greatest passions: painting. On her personal tumblr, you can find artwork inspired by Vikings, her daily musings, and various female body types. In fact, though she wasn’t in the film, Gilsig created all of the paintings by Patricia Clarkson’s artistic character in the 2003 movie The Station Agent.

“Conventionally, it’s considered a joke to want to be an actor,” she says. “So I’ve always been a little bit embarrassed about painting. But I’m realizing you can be creative in whatever material of the moment.”

With such temporal thinking, perhaps Gilsig relates a bit more to her Somewhere Slow character – who lives the fantasy of stepping out of her life and reinventing herself – than first perceived…

“Sometimes I imagine myself pouring coffee at truck stops across the country, living another life,” she says. “And I still like that idea.”

Check out Somewhere Slow and Jessalyn’s sketches. Follow Bonnie on Twitter here.

Photo: Udo Spreitzenbarth.

‘Hitchcock’’s Toni Collette on Acting, Accents & Australia

When it comes to accomplished actresses, Toni Collette is as versatile and disarming (in a good way) as they come. From The Sixth Sense and About a Boy, to In Her Shoes and Little Miss Sunshine, the Aussie star can’t be faulted for not exploring enough genres or assuming enough varying roles. Take her show United States of Tara alone and you’ve got several characters right there! Indeed, the 40-year-old mother of two has thus far assembled quite an impressive oeuvre, and she’s just getting started.

In Hitchcock—the comedy-drama about Alfred Hitchcock’s relationship with his indispensable wife Alma Reville, as portrayed during the making of his seminal movie Psycho—she acts alongside the likes of legendary actors Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren; the role of Hitchcock played by Hopkins (in full makeup and fat suit) with Mirren as his better half. Collette takes on the role of Peggy Robertson, longtime assistant to the “Master of Suspense,” a discerning and discreet right-hand-woman to the oft-challenging horror honcho of Hollywood. Both entertaining and informative, the 98-minute flick opens in limited release this Friday and nationwide come December.

Last weekend, we were lucky enough to steal some time with Collette to chat about her stance on Hitchcock and Hitchcock, what it was like to reunite with Hopkins, and her hatred for structured dialect learning.

What was it like working with Anthony Hopkins again? You acted together so long ago on The Efficiency Expert.
When I was 17. My first movie! 

What was it like to have that reunion?
It was lovely. We had a very short rehearsal with Sacha [Gervasi, the director] before we started shooting. We arrived and I sat in [Hopkins’] car with him and we reminisced about that [earlier] movie. I was a baby! 

I’m really lucky to have another chance to work with him. He’s a legendary actor, but also a complete sweetheart. I think when I was 17 I was too nervous to really get to know him. On this job I feel like I have. He’s just a wonderful person and such an incredible actor.

Was he goofy at all on set?
Oh yeah. He’s always joking. Tony’s very easy to work with. In no way like Hitchcock, except that he’s good at what he does. 

Any funny stories?
Nothing specific. The set just had an air of fun, a fun vibe. Suddenly, it feels like this big movie. It’s about to come out and people are talking about it in a context that’s kind of beyond me. But, in making it, it was so easy. It felt light and free and focused, but I think Sacha created a very pleasurable set. And, I think that’s smart, because it allows people to feel relaxed and hopefully do good work.

You have a great range of facial expressions and personalities within your work. But in this film you needed to be more restrained and not express everything going on inside. How was that for you? 
That’s very much Peggy. She takes everything in her stride. The fact that you recognize that there’s something underneath is a good thing, because that’s what I wanted it to feel like. She’s almost like the silent partner. He’s making all these seemingly crazy decisions and he’s incredibly moody and she just takes it, moves through it, doesn’t take it on. But you can hopefully see that she’s got her own opinion underneath the obvious. 

Definitely. You’re also accustomed to taking on various voices and accents for your roles. Did you ever, or do you now, have a coach for this?
When I first came to America I worked with a woman for an hour and found it completely distracting; I never worked with anyone again. On About a Boy, I worked with a British dialect coach and I recently worked in London again where the producers wanted me to work with a dialect coach. It was the second day after arriving, I was completely jetlagged. I was basically lying down talking to this poor woman and I just thought, Oh my god. If I have to think about the things that I’m being told to think about, it’s just a complete distraction. I’m more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, I-hope-I-get-it-right kind of person. 

On that “free spirit” note, did you prepare at all to become Peggy?
A lot of it was imagined, because there was very little information about her. Not as much as the more famous elements in the movie, in Hitchcock’s life. I watched a couple of interviews with her, read as much as possible, looked at a few photos. She was a very stylish lady, very well put together, so I found it great fun wearing Julie [Weiss]’s costumes. I feel like I had the best costumes in the movie, actually. [Laughs]

So, how did the process play out?
Piece-by-piece. Everything starts with a script. That kind of determines where you leap off from. I loved the script. I found it interesting that this woman, like Alma, Hitchcock’s wife, is incredibly strong and capable and very much an individual. But, she also dedicated her life to somebody else’s work, which I found to be a strange combination. I just loved that she didn’t take any shit from him. That’s what made their relationship so successful and [enduring]. The fact that she’s just real with this guy who’s very intimidating to other people [is great].

Is it more difficult playing the part of a person who existed in the real world, versus a fictitious character?
I think so. There’s a certain amount of responsibility. Having said that, Peggy wasn’t famous like the other characters represented in the movie, so there wasn’t as much pressure. Phew!

What’s your overall take on the film?
It’s a confident film in terms of the filmmaking. In a way it kind of represents Hitchcock himself. His acerbic wit [is] sewn throughout the piece. I love the story. I’m sure this is a common reaction: you think, Oh, it’s a movie about movies. And, in a sense, it is. [But], it’s so much more than that. It’s about his relationship with his incredibly talented, strong, capable wife. And, also, the rest of the women. His relationship with women in general is kind of strange and interesting and funny. 

Absolutely. Unlike a lot of actors working in the film and TV industry, you live neither in New York nor in L.A. You live in Australia. What’s that like?
I’m from Australia, so it feels normal to me. It’s a blessing and a curse that it’s so far away. When I go home, I feel like I’m on another planet. It’s very relaxing and familiar and easy. When I travel, it feel[s] like a work-oriented venture. I have two small kids now, so things have kind of changed. But, we are a bit of a traveling circus. We don’t spend much time at home, but we make the most of it. It’s fun. It’s a great life. It’s a really interesting way to be. I don’t want to do it forever. It’s exhausting. But, I’m really lucky to be working on the quality films I’m working on, especially this year. 

Can you tell me more?
Every single [film] has been a great experience, both personally and professionally. I’m not lying, every single film I’ve done this year has been fantastic. Really satisfying. But, I am looking forward to going home and lying down for a minute. 

What all have you conquered this year?
I did Hitchcock. Then I did a film called The Way, Way Back, which was written by the guys who wrote The Descendants. I got to work with Steve Carell on that. It was set on the beach in Massachusetts, so I would literally walk out the front door and ride my bike to the end of the street to go to work. It was lovely. I have a little part in a Nicole Holofcener film. Again, great story, great actors, a very Holofcener vibe, which I dug. I recently completed a film called A Long Way Down, which is another adaptation of a Nick Hornby novel. I love, love, love the story. Initially I was nervous to play my character; I thought I’d been miscast. I thought she was very different from me and I didn’t know how to make her real, but I loved playing that character. The story’s really beautiful. So, yeah, it’s been bloody brilliant. 

2011 Oscar Nominations Go More or Less as Expected

With the speed of a lumbering engine powered by critical hubris and self-importance, the 84th Academy Awards nominations dropped into our newsfeeds this morning with predictable result. Did you know that people liked The Descendants this year, The Artist as well? Brad Pitt and George Clooney scored the requisite Hollywood heartthrob acting votes (they will lose to the no-name French guy who doesn’t talk), while Meryl Streep got her due for sticking around. Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese were also nominated, just like they always are. It’s another Oscar ceremony, y’all!

But not to sound cynical or anything. It’s somewhat surprising, though definitely nice, to see Terrence Malick get official recognition for The Tree of Life, even if there’s almost no way the hype-happy Academy will give their highest awards to a movie with more than a handful of inscrutably artsy scenes. Equally surprising on the other end is the inclusion of Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, a movie that no one seemed to like but not for any inscrutably artsy reasons, simply because it’s kind of schmaltzy and not very good. Why not give the spot to something innocuous like Bridesmaids or even the last Harry Potter movie, if they’re trying to go commercial? Madness, it’s all madness. (I won’t even get started on Albert Brooks’ snub for Drive.) You can look at the important nominees below, or go to the Academy’s website for the full list.

Best Picture
The Artist, The Descendants, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, War Horse

Actor in a Leading Role
Demian Bichir – A Better Life, George Clooney – The Descendants, Jean Dujardian – The Artist, Gary Oldman – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Brad Pitt – Moneyball

Actress in a Leading Role
Glenn Close – Albert Nobbs, Viola Davis – The Help, Rooney Mara – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Meryl Streep – The Iron Lady, Michelle Williams – My Week with Marilyn

Directing
Michael Hazanavicius – The Artist, Alexander Payne – The Descendants, Martin Scorsese – Hugo, Woody Allen – Midnight in Paris, Terrence Malick – The Tree of Life

Actor in a Supporting Role
Kenneth Branaugh – My Week with Marilyn, Jonah Hill – Moneyball, Nick Nolte – Warrior, Christopher Plummer – Beginners, Max von Sydow – Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Actress in a Supporting Role
Berenice Bejo – The Artist, Jessica Chastain – The Help, Melissa McCarthy – Bridesmaids, Janet McTeer – Albert Nobbs, Octavia Spencer – The Help

Shailene Woodley on ‘The Descendants,’ Eating Clay & Super Humans

On her second day at work at American Apparel, actress Shailene Woodley got a call from her manager asking her to catch a flight to L.A. to meet director Alexander Payne for coffee. The Academy Award-winning filmmaker was casting his next project, an adaptation of Kaui Hart Hemmings’ novel, The Descendants. Months before, Woodley had auditioned for the role of Alex, a combative teenager who helps her father (George Clooney) cope in the wake of a family tragedy. Three months later, she was in Hawaii, where the film is set, meeting Clooney at the first table read. Here is the actress, who also stars in the ABC Family soap The Secret Life of the American Teenager, on The Descendants, eating clay to fight radiation, and her group of super humans. 

When you were auditioning for the role did you know who was going to be playing your father at that point?
No, Alexander wasn’t even attached when I first read the script. The first time I read the script it was an adaption of the book from different writers than Alexander, so the script we ended up using was completely different. However, the story was the same so it fueled something inside of me. I don’t remember the last time I was so passionate about something in my life. And then, eventually, six months later, I got to audition for Alexander. And then after I auditioned for him, I found out George was attached and it was kind of an organic process.

By now it’s well known that you were working at American Apparel when you got the gig.
Yeah, I was working at American Apparel down on Orchard and Houston, and I got a call early January from my manager, and he said, Shai you need to fly to L.A. tomorrow, Alexander wants to have coffee with you. And I was like, I can’t do that, it’s my second day at work at American Apparel, I have a commitment, I can’t let them down. And he was like, Shai you need to. And I was like, Can we Skype or something? But he was like, Shailene, I never tell you to do anything, and I really believe you need to do this. So I flew to L.A.

What was your excuse?
I told them I had the flu. So I flew to L.A., had coffee with him, and then went straight back to the airport and flew home that night so that I could work the next day at American Apparel. But when I had coffee with him, he told me I was his number one choice. He was going to Hawaii though, and he was going to audition every girl in Hawaii, and if there was one that was better suited for the role than me, he would call me and tell me personally that I did not book it. And that to me was enough. People were like, He shouldn’t have done that. But I thought it was so respectful and honest of him to do that. And then a month later, he called and said I did book it. Then I bawled.

You’ve been acting for a long time, but does this feel like a new stage in your career?
The only thing that feels new is the politics of this industry. But I work with such an amazing team, and luckily they specialize in the politics, and I specialize in getting on set and doing it on set. We have this really great collaboration where I don’t have to learn about it, because they’ll just guide me along the way. So often when someone gets a movie that is bigger than what they’ve done before, it becomes strategy all of a sudden. It becomes what magazine you’re in and what your portfolio is like, and who you talk to, and who you suck up to, and who you go meet with, and what outfit you wear. And that to me is all bullshit. I refuse to buy into that. I am into this for the art of it. Granted, Fox Searchlight is my boss, or whatever studio you’re working with on a specific project is your employer. And magazines are great to do as long as you have integrity in your interviews. As long as a project fuels my soul I’m happy.

How does a project fuel your soul?
It’s that unspoken feeling in your stomach. I’m a firm believer in listening to our bodies, so when something’s not working in life, you get that feeling in your stomach, this guttural pain. So often in relationships, when someone hurts you, it’s that pain in your stomach. That feeling when you read something or see a piece of art or you write, or whatever your artistic expression is, and inside your stomach, you get butterflies, and you get this intense passion, that’s what I mean by fueling your soul. It’s all physical.

What are you passionate about?
Acting is a big passion of mine and the other—I don’t’ want to say bigger, but it brings tears to my eyes because that’s the amount of passion I have—is teaching humans to be human again and reminding people to wake up. Ultimately, it’s about re-wilding yourself. And I don’t mean going out and actually foraging for food, although I do preach that because I do that.

You forage?
Yeah! And drink spring water from the mountain. I think it’s important to be human, and also I feel very fortunate to have been put in a position where I can talk to more people than I necessarily would have been able to talk to about big issues like Monsanto and genetic modification, and sweatshops and genocides that are occurring in Africa at this very moment. I realize that I’ve been given this really fortunate position to talk about issues that I think need to be addressed. I’m also on the extreme spectrum when it comes to sustainability and eating healthy and all that.

Are you a vegetarian?
I’m not a vegetarian. but I only eat humanely raised meats. I would rather actually kill my meat than buy it in plastic wrap. I don’t buy meat from Whole Foods, I order it direct from a farm. I mean, I’m like extremist.

When did this mindset take over?
I was fourteen, and my grandma is a naturopath, and she took my blood—she does live blood and cell analysis. She was like, You should probably eat more vegetables, and microwaves are not great for you.  And so I started doing research, and I haven’t used a microwave since. And that kind of kicked off eating vegetables. But I still liked processed foods. And then, at around sixteen, I got really really big into the environment and the importance of realizing that we are nature, which a lot of people have forgotten. We’re not part of nature, we are nature. So that kind of hit home.

You spent time in Hawaii shooting The Descendants. How did that affect you?
I had never been to Hawaii before, and the second I landed there I was like, This is home, this is me. My body’s from L.A., but my heart is from Hawaii. I’ve been there so many times since filming and established such phenomenal friends there, and the islands have this incredible energy that’s not really tangible.

Does radiation from your cell phone freak you out?
Oh my God. Radiation is one of the biggest things. Actually, there’s this awesome speaker, his name is Daniel Vitalis, we’ve become great friends, you should look him up, he’s a super human. George Clooney, Alexander Payne, Daniel Vitalis—super humans. He talks about protecting yourself from radiation, and how every indigenous creature on this planet eats clay. And when you eat clay, it combines with radioactive isotopes and heavy metals and takes them through your system.

Do you eat clay?
I eat clay every morning.

Let’s talk about The Descendants. What kind of pointers did Alexander give you?
Absolutely. The best direction he ever gave me was he came up to me and said, You’re not being Shai, and he walked away. I was like, Oh, duh, thank you. Thanks for bringing me back down to earth.

Your character is a bitch at the beginning of the film. Is there any of that in you?
Absolutely. I think everyone has a pain and a bitch in them. I don’t often use that side of myself because I really don’t have reason to, but the reason I don’t get bummed when I don’t book a role is because every character is written for a certain person, and you never know who that person is until they show up. For Alex, there wasn’t a lot of acting to be done, it was more about me being present in the moment. I’m not her. I didn’t do drugs in high school and I didn’t drink, and I’m not bitchy like she is, and I don’t say words like ‘twat’ on a daily basis. But, I somehow connected to her.

Robert Forster on ‘The Descendants,’ George Clooney, & His Savior Quentin Tarantino

Most of the chatter surrounding The Descendants has been about George Clooney’s committed performance as Matt King, a middle-aged man caught deep in the throes of crisis. But it’s Robert Forster, as his hard-nosed, sad-eyed, father-in-law who steals the show. Forster, who’s been acting since the late ‘60s, found his lagging career resurrected in 1998 when Quentin Tarantino gave him the role of a lifetime in Jackie Brown. Forster’s performance earned him a Best Supporting Actor nomination, and introduced to him a new generation of filmmakers. We recently spoke to Forster about The Descendants, George Clooney, and his fateful encounter with Quentin Tarantino.   

Your character is a serious, no-nonsense guy. What is his back-story?
Scott is a military guy who is used to calling the shots. Life is becoming less and less predictable and manageable for him. His daughter and wife are leaving him. His grandchildren and son-in-law have disappointed him. Everybody is part of his own crash. 

We’re used to seeing Clooney play strong, confident characters on-screen. It’s a nice surprise to see him play such a vulnerable character. What do you think about this departure?
Look at Dustin Hoffman. He’s an unlikely leading man. But the fact that he was so good and hit a homerun in his first movie gave him the opportunity to play any type of character. Clooney paid a lot of dues in his early career, and then he graduated into a real fine movie star. Clooney will continue to have great opportunities to play whatever role comes along that a moviemaker throws at him and that he wants to do. There’s no departure, there is just a continuum of interesting things for him to do.

While your character wants the best for his daughter, do you think you’re a little hard on her husband, Matt?
My daughter could have done better. Matt’s no exciting guy. He spends all his time in an office. She’s a dynamic, exciting, daring woman. 

When the film ended, I wondered what Matt and Scott’s relationship would go on to be like in the future?
We’ll see each other on holidays I suppose. Eventually, I would find out that my daughter was cheating on him. Matt had the opportunity of telling me and he didn’t, which shows he is a good guy. Why tell the old man something he doesn’t need to know? Why hurt his feelings?  He’s already hurt. Matt’s a great character.

Do you think that underneath it all Scott actually likes Matt?
I would have had a great deal of respect for him after I found out that he didn’t tell me that my daughter was cheating on him. I’d re-think some of my behavior and probably have come to a better conclusion.   

You have three daughters and a son in real-life. Like your character in the movie, are you ever hard on your daughters’ husbands?
Not me! I let my daughters worry about being hard on their husbands. I have great warmth with my son-in-laws.

At this stage of your career what type of parts do you want to play?
You never know what’s coming next. If I were to guess and put myself in some direction, I would never be right. I had to take on a bad guy role in 1985 with Delta Force. Up until then, I had only played good guys. I was indebted to my agent and he said it was the only job he had for me and I had to go do it. I wound up playing bad guys for 13 years until Quentin Tarantino gave me a good guy role again.

Speaking of Tarantino, Jackie Brown was just released on Blu-ray. What did that role do for you at that stage of your career?
My career was dead at that time. Tarantino gave me a gift the size of which can’t be exaggerated. He gave me my career back.      

How were you originally cast in Jackie Brown?
I was at the point in my career when I was hoping that some guy who liked me growing up would turn into a moviemaker and give me a good part. I ran into Tarantino in a coffee shop. Six months later, I walked into that same coffee shop that I went to every day and he was there, and offered me the script.           

When you look back on the film now, what do you think of it?
It’s a fabulous movie. If it was made in a different era, it is the kind of part Humphrey Bogart or Robert Mitchum would have played. You have to be lucky in this business. In 1966, I got lucky with John Huston putting me in Reflections in a Golden Eye.  Eventually, Tarantino gave me a new lease on life. Alexander Payne has just added some time on my clock.

What would you say to a young actor starting out?
If you happen to be looking for the good life, self-respect and satisfaction are huge components. If you want to know what to do from now on, keep doing that till the last day.

What do you hope people will take away from The Descendants?
Understanding themselves, their families and neighbors better. Movies that are this good generally achieve a little bit of understanding in an audience. 

November Movie Reviews: Immortals, The Descendants, Melancholia

 

My Week with Marilyn After staring down the monotonous terrain of pioneer-era Oregon in Meek’s Cutoff, Michelle Williams takes on the role of Marilyn Monroe in the true-life tale My Week with Marilyn. To capture the bombshell’s mannerisms, Williams pored over vintage footage alongside director Simon Curtis, resulting in an astoundingly convincing portrait of the ’50s icon. Neatly sidestepping the unwieldy burden of a full-scale biopic, the film focuses on several turbulent months in 1956 when Monroe traveled to England to film The Prince and the Showgirl with director Laurence Olivier (embodied with suave hauteur by Kenneth Branagh). The story unfolds from the viewpoint of Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne), a naïve on-set assistant who finds himself in Monroe’s romantic graces as she struggles with her demons. Though enraptured by the starlet, Clark keeps his narrative gaze trained on the clashes between the director and his leading lady, offering an eyewitness account of the tensions that pushed Norma Jeane Baker ever deeper into depression. —Nadeska Alexis

Immortals Unsavvy audiences will be wowed by Immortals, a surprisingly brutal swords-and-sandals epic set on the edges of monolithic seaside cliffs. Where did they find such breathtaking locations, and how did they lug a film crew there? They didn’t. Like more and more modern mythmaking, Immortals was shot on a soundstage in Montreal; those awesome locales are nothing more than a green screen and a mainframe. Don’t despair, though, you’re still in for a bloody good time. The tale of a peasant named Theseus (Henry Cavill, in a warm-up to his coming role as Superman), tapped by the gods to defend Greece from the demonic King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke, relishing being the heel), Immortals will remind viewers of that other slow motion-saturated Spartan saga, 300. Director Tarsem Singh—the phantasmagoric visualist who brought us The Cell—treats every thundering shot like a pristine, celestial tableau. Unyielding carnage never looked so good. —Ben Barna
 
The Descendants Alexander Payne (About Schmidt, Sideways) has yet to make a bad film, and The Descendants keeps his golden streak alive. It’s the slow-burn story of Matt King (George Clooney), a humble lawyer trying to be a better father and husband in the face of trauma: His wife is in a coma from which she may never recover. The revelation that she was having an affair sets off a chain of events wherein King and his two temperamental daughters crisscross their home state of Hawaii in a quest for closure. Actress Shailene Woodley gives a breakout performance as the older of the two daughters, undergoing a profound transformation by the film’s end. Payne’s trademark balancing act—between melancholy and offbeat humor—is on full display, too. But it’s Clooney who does the heavy lifting. It’s not easy for a star of his magnitude to disappear into a character, but with Matt King, Clooney manages to become—gasp—just a regular guy, albeit one with the weight of the world on his shoulders. —BB
 
Melancholia For gloomy people, the end of the world is a comforting thought: What’s there to lose when you’re eternally mourning all mankind? In Lars von Trier’s latest tour de force, we’re made to consider fear and depression versus the manufactured happiness of everyday life. From the “doomsday ballet” entrée, a series of foreshadowing shots set to a swelling classical overture, Melancholia is an all-consuming experience. The first act drops you into a wedding  ceremony filled with empty rituals that send the bride, Justine (Kirsten Dunst), spiraling. The second act centers on Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), who can’t cope with the threat of a previously undiscovered planet slouching toward Earth. While one character is consumed by fear, the other is comforted by the high-stakes drama, creating a tension so penetrating you can’t shake it. The cinematography of Manuel Alberto Claro makes you feel like a mote-like speck in a volatile universe; you have no choice but to bring your own anxieties to the surface and release them. —Hillary Weston
 
A Dangerous Method If you’re looking for graphic, infectious David Cronenberg, forget it — the only horror you’re going to find here is Keira Knightley’s jutting jaw. Though plenty cerebral, A Dangerous Method is noteworthy for the filmmaker’s restraint. Based on Christopher Hampton’s play The Talking Cure, the film opens with a hysterical Sabina (Knightley) as she visits Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) for treatment. He finds himself seduced not only by the challenge of the case, but by the patient herself—an intelligent woman with a deep-seated masochistic fetish. In a series of endless conversations between Jung and mentor Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen), the film tries to shed light on the mysteries of the human mind. In the end, though, it would do better to remember the heart. —HW