Ellen Barkin finds the role of a lifetime in “Another Happy Day”

While critics and odds makers tell us that Meryl Streep is a shoe-in for Best Actress at next year’s Oscars, the competition definitely is worth watching. And the next couple of weeks just may bring a new name to the race — one that we haven’t heard enough lately — with the release of Another Happy Day starring Ellen Barkin.

The movie, which won Best Screenplay at Sundance, puts Barkin in a role unlike anything we’ve seen from her before and, according to reviewers, she gives the performance of a lifetime.

Barkin plays Lynn, a wealthy but troubled mother who travels to her parents’ estate for her oldest son’s extravagant wedding. The parents, played by Ellen Burstyn and George Kennedy, have a much better relationship with Lynn’s ex-husband (Thomas Hayden Church) and his current wife (Demi Moore) than they do with their daughter. As the wedding unfolds, every character’s dysfunction comes to the surface, much like, as Movieline puts it, “Rachel Getting Married if every character were as damaged and narcissistic as Anne Hathaway‘s Kym.”

Here’s the trailer (NSFW for F-bombs):

Barkin has always been a favorite of mine. She has a quality that I don’t quite know how to define except to say that I know she could get me in serious trouble. Take that as you will. She has an irresistible swagger that appeals to men and women alike, regardless of sexual orientation. She calls herself a broad. I call her hot.

In an interview with The Daily Beast’s Kevin Sessums, Barkin talked about her new movie and her ever-evolving life.

On the role of Lynn:

This was a very challenging and difficult role. It wrenched me. I think if you are a parent you love your children, so the hardest thing to admit is that you’ve made a mistake in raising them. Your intention might have been clear, but the way you went about something might have been wrong, and they got hurt. That was the main thing I found so fascinating about the role. These are the kinds of women that we never see depicted on screen, and these are women who are every mother I know.

On a pivotal scene in which Lynn turns on the light above the stove in the middle of the night. Her mother, who is sitting alone in the dark, says, “We never turn on that light. Turn it off.”

I’ll tell you what’s so amazing about that. That line comes from a true story that one of the actors told the writer-director about her mother to sum up her relationship with her own mother. “I turned on the light above the stove once and my mother said, ‘Oh, I never turn on that light.’” … I challenge anyone to show me two minutes of film that can approach what Ellen Burstyn did in that chair in that scene. She played it like a Stradivarius.

On transcending gender:

I’m not limited by my gender, and I don’t think anyone else should be either. Because I am the age I am and I sort of rode the crest of the first profound post-suffragette feminists, I wasn’t fighting to burn my bra. Those women fought that fight just seconds before I came into womanhood. I never had to reclaim my territory. I just sort of slipped my foot under the beauty of Kate Millett and Germaine Greer and Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem and all those beautiful women. I’ve never said this before, but I never had to burn my bra because I never wore a bra. I never wore a bra, so I never had to take it off. When I first started making movies, it took me a while to get how sexist it was. I mean, you’re even called “the girl” on the movie set. And I don’t care how f–king successful you are, you can still find someone who will call you “the girl.”

My favorite moment in the interview came in an exchange about Barkin’s current love and director of Happy Day, Sam Levinson. Barkin did not want to discuss their relationship and, in the course of the banter, said that Levinson’s androgyny often led to him being mistaken as gay. Barkin was surprised.

EB: Our Sam? Notice I didn’t say my Sam. He’s our Sam.

KS: That’s a way of my getting you to talk about him. I’ll accuse him of being gay.

EB: I don’t think he’d consider it an accusation. Remember, he’s an artist. That’s your bad.

KS: That is my bad. You’re exactly right. That was an awful word choice on my part. I apologize to you. To Sam. To myself. And all my gay brothers.

Go, Ellen. She also responds to the interviewer’s suggestion that Levinson’s androgyny can help her get in touch with her “latent lesbianism.”

I don’t think I have to get in touch with any of those aspects of my personality or character. I think it’s been done. That’s one of the fun things about doing this role — she was so much more feminine than I. I am kind of a butch girl, if you really think about it.

Oh, I do. Think about it, I mean.

Check out the whole interview at The Daily Beast – Barkin is wonderful. She also is quite expressive on Twitter; follow her at @EllenBarkin. Another Happy Day opens in limited release Friday.

Will you see Another Happy Day when it gets to your part of the world? How much do you love Ellen Barkin?

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