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.
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
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.