Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Zack Snyder Defends 'Man Of Steel' Finale, Ben Affleck Reveals Bruce Wayne Knew People Who Died In That Battle Zack Snyder Defends 'Man Of Steel' Finale, Ben Affleck Reveals Bruce Wayne Knew People Who Died In That Battle New Book Contends Eric Stoltz Was “Difficult” & The Cast Wasn’t Shocked He Was Replaced On ‘Back To The Future’ New Book Contends Eric Stoltz Was “Difficult” & The Cast Wasn’t Shocked He Was Replaced On ‘Back To The Future’ Watch: Scott Lang Wants To Call The Avengers In New International 'Ant-Man' Trailer Watch: Scott Lang Wants To Call The Avengers In New International 'Ant-Man' Trailer The 20 Worst Films Of 2015 So Far The 20 Worst Films Of 2015 So Far Zack Snyder Reveals The Easter Egg Idea He Pitched Christopher Nolan And David Goyer For 'Man Of Steel' Zack Snyder Reveals The Easter Egg Idea He Pitched Christopher Nolan And David Goyer For 'Man Of Steel' New Images Of Bruce Wayne, Lex Luthor, More In 'Batman v. Superman,' Ben Affleck Compares Batman To Hamlet New Images Of Bruce Wayne, Lex Luthor, More In 'Batman v. Superman,' Ben Affleck Compares Batman To Hamlet Paul Thomas Anderson To Write And Possibly Direct Warner Bros' ‘Pinocchio’ For Robert Downey Jr. Paul Thomas Anderson To Write And Possibly Direct Warner Bros' ‘Pinocchio’ For Robert Downey Jr. Watch: First Trailer For Oliver Stone’s ‘Snowden’ Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley & Nicolas Cage Watch: First Trailer For Oliver Stone’s ‘Snowden’ Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley & Nicolas Cage Review: ‘Terminator: Genisys’ Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney & Jason Clarke Review: ‘Terminator: Genisys’ Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney & Jason Clarke 'Thor: The Dark World' Director Alan Taylor Says His Marvel Experience Was "Particularly Wrenching" 'Thor: The Dark World' Director Alan Taylor Says His Marvel Experience Was "Particularly Wrenching" Watch: Anna Paquin Is Rescued In Clip From 'X-Men: Days of Future Past - The Rogue Cut' Watch: Anna Paquin Is Rescued In Clip From 'X-Men: Days of Future Past - The Rogue Cut' Kevin Feige Says 'Spider-Man 2' Is "One Of The Best Superhero Movies Ever," Talks John Hughes Influence On New Spidey Kevin Feige Says 'Spider-Man 2' Is "One Of The Best Superhero Movies Ever," Talks John Hughes Influence On New Spidey Watch: Live Your Ultimate Fantasy With The First NSFW Trailer For Gaspar Noe's 'Love' Watch: Live Your Ultimate Fantasy With The First NSFW Trailer For Gaspar Noe's 'Love' Review & Recap: ‘True Detective’ Season 2, Episode 2, ‘Night Finds You’ Review & Recap: ‘True Detective’ Season 2, Episode 2, ‘Night Finds You’ The Punisher Will Reportedly Appear As The Villain In ‘Daredevil’ Season 2 The Punisher Will Reportedly Appear As The Villain In ‘Daredevil’ Season 2 The 25 Best TV Shows Of The 2014/2015 Season The 25 Best TV Shows Of The 2014/2015 Season The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season

'Another Happy Day' Director Sam Levinson Says He Wants Audiences To Keep Talking About It After The Credits Roll

The Playlist By Todd Gilchrist | The Playlist November 17, 2011 at 11:01AM

“I always wanted to write and direct films for as long as I can remember.”
0
Sam Levinson and Ellen Barkin
Sam Levinson and Ellen Barkin

“I always wanted to write and direct films for as long as I can remember.”

Notwithstanding allusions to “Goodfellas,” Sam Levinson seems like a born filmmaker, possibly because he was practically brought up on movies. His father Barry is one of Baltimore’s great cinematic champions, and has worked for decades on many of the most important and memorable films made in Hollywood. In spite of that sort of mainstream matriculation, Sam seems eager to forge his own directorial path, as evidenced by “Another Happy Day.” The film stars Ellen Barkin as a struggling, emotionally fragile mother who tries to heal old family wounds and protect her children from new ones at a family gathering. And while the end result has the same honesty and intimacy of many of his father’s films, including “Diner,” “Rain Man” and “Liberty Heights,” Levinson told The Playlist that his idea for the film developed intuitively, and worked itself out naturally.

Another Happy Day, Ellen Barkin, Review

“I was working on putting together the financing for a documentary on Robert Rauschenberg at the time,” he remembered during a recent interview in Savannah, Georgia. “As the money was coming together, I got a phone call that he was going to pass away. I went back to New York, and I thought, well what the fuck have I been doing? I was very sad because Bob was such a kind of amazing figure and I just I felt like I lost something really special that needed to be captured on film.”

“So there was a big void in my heart, and I had had this idea for a film about a woman who goes down to Maryland from New York City to deal with her dying father,” he said, hinting at the unpredictability of his inspiration. “That was just simply the idea, and I just kept imagining her looking out the window and I was listening to that Box Tops song, 'Neon Rainbow,' and so I just sat down and just started writing. The first line was 'Do you think Mom is hot,' and it just sort of unraveled from there.”

Another Happy Day, Kate Bosworth

Watching the film, it has an odd, compelling stream-of-consciousness feel to it, capturing the unpredictable melodrama of everyday life where intense moments clash with mundane ones. Key to that feeling, it seems, was Levinson’s process of writing it, which was itself unstructured. “I didn’t plan it out at all,” he admitted. “I didn’t write an outline. I didn’t really know or want to know where it was going to go. I didn’t know how many characters there were, [or] what the specific dynamics were going to be, and just allowed the characters to kind of find their own way given certain parameters."

“It just started to get more and more complicated and I had certain themes and ideas that I wanted to hit on and it just came out of me,” he continued. “I wrote it in about three weeks, and then I took about a two-day break and went back and spent maybe two, three days just doing some editing on it. And then that eventually was pretty much the shooting script.”

Demi Moore in "Another Happy Day"
Phase 4 Demi Moore in "Another Happy Day"

In the film, Barkin’s character has two young sons, played by Ezra Miller and Daniel Yelsky. Yelsky’s character is a budding filmmaker, and Miller’s is a bipolar teen with an incisive eye especially when it comes to sizing up his family. When asked which of the two – or of any of the characters – was his on-screen proxy, he suggested that his connection to the ensemble was decidedly less specific. “I know that’s a cliché to say, but in a way they all have to be a piece of me, because their emotional inner life needs to be autobiographical in order for it to be honest,” he revealed. “I need to have felt those emotions in order to write those characters. So whether it’s Ellen Burstyn’s character the grandmother in the film or whether it’s the 13 year-old Daniel Yelsky, I needed to identify with them on a very visceral level or else I feel like they would come off as sort of fraudulent. So yes, there is a piece of me in every character.” At the same time, he suggested any more specific similarities were due to the actors’ performances rather than his artistic intentions.

“I think that there is certainly probably more of me in Elliot, the Ezra Miller character than any other character,” he admitted. “But that could also just be the way that I sort of see it because of Ezra’s performance, and the fact that he just kind of imitated my body language for the entirety of shooting.”

Another Happy Day, review

Levinson said that ambiguity of design extended to every part of the film, most of all the ending. In particular, he didn’t want to overly explain, clarify, or otherwise wrap up the conflicts the characters endure. “I feel very strongly as a writer and as a director it is not my job to crush the audience’s imagination,” he said. “I want them to walk out of the theater and continue to discuss this film or to discuss their own life. I'm not particularly interested in finding those conclusions, because those conclusions don’t exist in life. And whether that makes this a good film or a bad film by anyone’s opinion is fine with me, but if I tied it up by the Hollywood standards of 'they all come together in the end and everyone sort of solves their issues' then it would just it would undermine everything I'm trying to accomplish and trying to say, which is it’s fucking difficult to communicate with the people you love.”

Levinson demurs when asked how carefully planned he wants his career to be. “I'm not sure where it will go,” he admitted. "I made it when I was 25, and it’s one of many different sorts of scripts I've written, but I just don’t necessarily want that to be the next film I make. I'm all over the fucking map when it comes to what I'm interested in. I would love, love to make a fucking horror film. It’s like it’s something I've dreamed of since I was a kid, but it will be a horror film in the way that I want to make it. Just at this point in time I can’t imagine getting a script from someone else and falling in love with it so much that I decide to direct it.”

“So I don’t know where I’ll end up,” he continued, “but I think it will be sort of all over the place. I mean my fucking brain is all over the place, so the next film I plan to make once I finish it up is very, very different from this film. This I shot in a very specific way because I wanted to capture the messiness of life. I searched for the mistakes. But each film has its own sort of voice and sort of cinematic narrative as well and you learn. I mean I've learned so much from this film - just a fucking wealth of knowledge that I hope I can carry on to the next.”

"Another Happy Day" opens in limited release on November 18th.

This article is related to: Another Happy Day, Sam Levinson


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates