by Patricia Grandjean
Oct 7, 2012
03:38 PMBox Office
Hello, I Must Be Going: Q&As with Melanie Lynskey and Sarah Koskoff
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This month, Westport native Sarah Koskoff's Hello I Must Be Going may just be playing at a theater near you. Premiered in January at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival (where it caused a splash as both the opening-night film and a Grand Jury Prize nominee), Hello has already been lauded by critics at Entertainment Weekly and The Los Angeles Times as a character study that’s greater that the sum of its premises. Actually, Salon probably said it best: “Sarah Koskoff’s screenplay starts out so modestly, you think it’s just going to be a female early-midlife-crisis movie, or an older-woman/younger-guy love story, and, heck, it is both of those things. But as the movie goes along it becomes much richer and funnier than that summary suggests, painting a satirical but sympathetic portrait of upper-crust family life in Westport, Conn.”
As screenwriter, Koskoff collaborated on the movie with her husband, director Todd Louiso, and, she says, a "dream cast" that featured Blythe Danner, John Rubenstein and New Zealand actress Melanie Lynskey—who stars as divorcee Amy, a woman who falls in love with a high school boy in her hometown, Jeremy (Christopher Abbott). We talked with both Lynskey and Koskoff about the film.
How did you get involved with "Hello I Must Be Going"?
I got a call and was asked to do a reading for the Sundance Institute. I guess the movie was developed at the Sundance Lab, and they chose a couple of those movies to do readings of in front of an audience. I loved the script so much, and I just thought, "Oh gosh, if I get to read this character just one time, I'm going to be so excited." So I agreed to do the reading, then after that they told me they wanted me to do the movie.
Upon talking with Sarah Koskoff, I got the impression that she and Todd Louiso really felt they landed their dream cast for this. What did you love about the screenplay?
I'm really so like a woman in her mid-30s who's not drop-dead gorgeous. There are not a lot of interesting juicy parts to be played, you know? I just love that Amy's a fully realized human and that it's a very honest portrayal. She spends the first part of the movie in basically a catatonic depression, and then this thing happens to her where she gets so filled with life and laughter. There's so much to play in that journey from feeling absolutely nothing to feeling everything—it was very magical to me.
Did you relate to Amy?
I definitely did. I experienced my last personal heartbreak some time ago, thankfully. In my professional life there have been times when I'm just sitting around thinking, "Who am I? What's going to happen to me? What is this life all about?" And I related to her sense of humor.
It's a very literate movie, isn't it? Sarah and I talked about the fact that she has done a lot of playwriting. The movie is very verbal, but I understand earlier versions of the scrennplay were even more so. But what kind of demands does that kind of script make on you as an actor, as opposed to scripts where there's a lot of action and scenery?
Sometimes, when there's a lot of talking in a movie, you get to work and you realize you don't need to say everything, because you can see our faces. In extreme closeups, some things you can sort of sense or feel or do with a look. Sarah and Todd were great about calling off extraneous moments that didn't need to be there anymore. Otherwise, it's great to play somebody articulate.
This the first movie in which you've starred, the first one you've carried on your own.
Yes, this is the first time of my life i've been in every single scene of a movie. I didn't really think about it when I read the script; I just thought it was so balanced and there were so many interesting things about it and characters. Then I got the schedule and I realized, "Hang on, I'm in every scene." And the pace at which these indie movies is shot is so fast, this one was 20 days.
What is your take on Amy and the journey she goes through in the film, from the beginning to when the credits roll?
It's funny, it seems like at the beginning of the movie she's just a person who's given up any identity that she might have had. As a child, she was very comfortable trying to make evryone else happy—looking after her dad, looking out for what everyone needed from her. Her father's kind of a narcissist, and then she grew up to marry this other narcissist. She ended up thinking, "I don't need to work, I don't need hobbies, I'll just be your wife—that's what I do now." For some people it's just easier to not have to challenge themselves and ask the hard questions: "What am I good at? What am I passionate about? What makes me happy?" She's just used to being in that place of, "What does everyone else need?" So the movie is a journey of, "Who am I?" I think Amy and Jeremy are both going on the same journey, but hers takes place 15 years later in life—discovering herself and what she really wants to do.
I always wonder what actors pull from in themselves when they play any part.
My favorite experiences are always the movies where you read it and you're not sure why, but it resonates with you on some level. You just feel like you need to do this right now. It's difficult to articulate what it awakens inside you. I felt that way when I read The Informant! That character was kind of a Western housewife in the 1990s, sort of blindly going along with what her husband was doing. I didn't have any way of relating to that, but there was something about it that made me want to do it right then. There are these different parts of you and different things you want to explore within yourself, and this material will come along to allow you to open up and make discoveries, or it'll remain a mystery.
Was this the first time you've done any work in Connecticut?
I was in Connecticut once before, when we shot a few days of Away We Go there. We shot in New Haven and Stamford. But that was just a week. Westport was so beautiful and peaceful, and the people were so friendly. I went for a walk one evening along this little beach, and there were all these beautiful houses. I thought it would be so nice to have a place there, then I went home and Googled real estate sites and was like, "Noooo—I'm never going to have a place there!" But it's so gorgeous. And there are so many good restaurants. Every meal I ate there was so great. One night, I had a super late shoot, and Blythe got one of the assistants to go to a restaurant and bring me back pizza and salad on the set.
I was just so impressed with your performance in this movie, because Amy is a character you could easily tire of—as an observer or a friend. But you really make the audience root for her from the get-go.
There were moments when I was like, "God, people are going to hate her! She's doing nothing to help herself." But you know, she's totally called out by her mother. Blythe is such a natural caretaker, so sweet and loving and such a mom. She thought she was being mean and I said, "Look who you're talking to! I'm driving you crazy." She kept saying, "I'm an awful person." She's so good in the movie. This was one of the greatest working experiences of my life.
How was it to work with Blythe? Because Amy's mother is an interesting counterpart, she's almost a brutal conscience for her.
Blythe is such a natural caretaker, so sweet and loving and such a mom. She thought she was being mean and I said, "Look who you're talking to! I'm driving you crazy; you're allowed to be mad." She kept saying, "I'm an awful person." She's so good in the movie. This was one of the greatest working experiences of my life.
What do you hope viewers will take away from the movie?
The nicest responses for me were when people would come up at Sundance and say, "I've just gone through a divorce, and the movie gave me a sense of hope that I might be okay, that it's possible to start your life over." I think there's a message in it, that even when you think everything you love is finished, it's possible that you have an even better life waiting for you. You just have to be open to it.