It’s that time of the year again, folks. Black Friday shoppers are licking their proverbial chops and hoping they don’t get trampled in the fracas. Pumpkin-spice flavored everything is still all the rage, even extending to burgers. (I wish you could make this shit up.) And on top of all that, the holiday movie season – which saw the release of some of the year’s best films, including “Foxcatcher” and “Interstellar” – is almost wrapped up. While there are still a handful of major films to look forward to in December, the year is all but over and with the gradual trickling-in of pre-Oscar hype comes the annual batch of Roundtable Discussions. And the latest focuses on this year’s leading ladies, featuring Hilary Swank (“The Homesman”), Julianne Moore (“Still Alice”), Reese Witherspoon (“Wild”), Patricia Arquette (“Boyhood”), Amy Adams (“Big Eyes”), Laura Dern (“Wild” again) and Felicity Jones (“The Theory of Everything”) and it’s an exciting taste of what’s surely to come in the following days.
As always, the participants dive into the thick of some heady, challenging topics almost right away, and with minimal coaxing. Reese Witherspoon discusses the pressure of fully inhabiting a character while the real-life person is standing off-camera watching you act, and also describes the crippling fear she experienced before a particularly graphic sex scene in Jean-Marc Vallee’s new film. This is understandable: Witherspoon is playing a promiscuous drug addict and it was the actress’s first sex scene, unless you count the part of “Election” where her head is digitally imposed on the body of Matthew Broderick’s wife.
Amy Adams talks about playing the reclusive Margaret Keane, and how Keane’s notoriously private reputation helped to inform the performance. “She seemed surprised that anyone would want to tell the story of her life,” says Adams with quiet admiration.
The uncommonly intelligent and eloquent Patricia Arquette seems to have faced the most daunting conceptual challenge during the twelve-year process (there’s no other word for it) of Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood,” but the fact is that all of these actresses are spectacularly gifted, in addition to being ably articulate in discussing their craft. We also get treated to some amusing, sometimes even juicy anecdotes from our participants: Laura Dern describes the insane-sounding first day of Alexander Payne’s “Citizen Ruth” (which involved a sex scene, a drunk townie and an almost total lack of preparation) and how Reese Witherspoon blew an audition by apparently playing it “stoned.” These actresses – all of whom come from different schools of acting, and employ varying methods in bringing their characters to life – are full of praise for each other’s work and they’re a pleasure to be in the company of for fifty-one minutes or so.
There were some performers I personally would have loved to see in this Roundtable – I thought Jessica Chastain gave her best performance yet in J.C. Chandor’s “A Most Violent Year,” and I’m just gonna go ahead and say let’s throw Elisabeth Moss in there for her fearless performances in “The One I Love” and “Listen Up, Philip” – but this Roundtable’s an informative and totally entertaining watch. Check out the whole 50-minute talk below.