New York: In Mike Mills Common, Joaquin Phoenix plays a New York-based radio journalist who, throughout the film, records interviews with real children about their lives, asking them the question, What scares you? ,
During film production, Mills scheduled interviews sporadically, often at the end of a day of shooting.
It was a constant reminder to be real in front of the camera, to be really authentic, says Phoenix. They were just
It completely changed the chemistry, says Mills. All films should do this.
Moments from the documentary make cameos in common, but the entire film pulsates with something closer to real life. Performances are loose and often improvised. The story of an uncle (Phoenix), thrust into the upbringing of his sisters’ 9-year-old son (Woody Norman), was inspired by Mills’ relationship with his own child, Hopper.
Mills, who married filmmaker Miranda in July, says, “I always tell Hopper that humans are big. All the possibilities and contraindications are huge. A movie about humans, if you’re lucky, you’re going to get a swirl.
The black-and-white Common, which opens in theaters on Friday at A24, could be the rare film with a better touch than this. Since its launch at Telluride and the New York Film Festivals earlier this fall, Common Common has been received as an unusually sweet, open-hearted and genuine film, a shaggy portrait of the intense adult-child relationship. .
In October, Phoenix and Mills gathered on a midtown balcony to discuss the film, which was shot just before the pandemic began in January 2020 and was edited full time. Meanwhile, Phoenix becomes a father. Last year, he and Rooney Mara had a boy, River, who was named after Phoenix’s late brother.
It was as if every phase of life had become complicated in just a few months, Phoenix says with a smile. life and death. Welcome to the Experience!
When asked whether Phoenix started Common Common knowing that fatherhood was coming, he replied, “I don’t know.” Do the math, man before he knew he knew. But Phoenix, who has always been reluctant to draw a straight line between art and life, cautions that this was only an entry point.
When I think about it in relation to my baby and my own experience, I go uh. That’s your thing. I don’t want to fall into that game of thinking about my life. was i? I sure do subconsciously, says Phoenix. I think it’s beautiful when you’re inspired by the things in your life, but it’s also somewhat disgusting sometimes.
For Mills, the writer-director of Beginners and Women of the 20th Century, the family has been a regular reservoir. Early, along with Christopher Plummer, were modeled on his father, and in the 20th century Annette Bening’s matriarch Woman was inspired by her mother. But he’s also hesitant to be very direct about it. The family seems very authentic to him. He considers his subject to be the primary relation.
It seems to me that the people who appear to be really massive in your life are your universe, says Mills. everything there. It’s Game of Thrones and Spider-Man” and comedy all thrown together.
Common Common may have built on an autobiography but Mills’ collaborative process turned it into something else, a thing of its own. For 12-year-old Norman, the freedom of Mills filmmaking was new and transformative.
I’ve worked on films that have been through a lot, it has to be in the script and you can’t change anything, says Norman, speaking by Zoom from his home in London. Being this loose, I thought, let my creativity flow. For me the film is very appealing that way because you can tell everything is real.
In the film, Norman’s character, Jesse, is filled with curiosities and eccentricities that go beyond the usual childhood ideas in the film. Like Jesse, Norman wants everything he is capable of to be taken seriously.
I don’t want to be seen as a child actor,” says Norman. I want to be seen as an actor who is a child.
Phoenix also started out as a child artist, an experience he cherishes. He believes he was a completely spontaneous actor back then, a mindset he tries to regain. As for Phoenix, watching Norman go through something similar in C’mon’s borderless creative space.
Somewhere in the end, he said without irony, I am taking this whole picture for you. And I think we all agreed with that, Phoenix says.
Cmon follows a stark contrast to Phoenix in 2019’s Joker. Mills’ film wasn’t an antidote to anything, says Phoenix, but he starred in a different dynamic opposite Norman.
Often if you’re the hero of a movie, at least the kind of actor I am, I think things need to run, the scene, says Phoenix. It was very interesting not just playing the scene and hearing and reacting to what someone else was doing.
The same was true of the interviews in the film. They took place in New York, New Orleans, Chicago, Los Angeles and across the country with a broad spectrum of children. The film is dedicated to one, Devante Bryant, a 9-year-old New Orleans who was later killed in a shooting.
Phoenix, who has sometimes had a more tortuous relationship with interviews, began by recording one with his own nephew. He worried that it would feel intrusive or uncomfortable. But later when he asked his nephew how he felt, he replied, “That’s amazing.” You asked me things you’ve never asked me before.”
Phoenix says, “I’ve always had this weird somewhat counterproductive relationship with the idea of an interview and the nature of the thing being asked questions on the record.” We come to this watering hole but have a different life than this. I really appreciate it for what you do and how hard it can be and how powerful it can be, and the beauty of being able to spark conversations between people. At his best, he is.
Follow AP Film writer Jake Coyle on Twitter: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP