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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

January 23, 2012 at 9:01 AM

A “character actress” finally finds the spotlight

Out of all the stories emerging from the Sundance Film Festival over the weekend, I’m drawn to this one from the New York Times: a profile of Melanie Lynskey, a 34-year-old actress from New Zealand who has, for the first time in her career, landed a starring role. I’ve often thought of Lynskey over the years, because I remember her from her startling debut in Peter Jackson’s 1994 “Heavenly Creatures,” an eerie drama about two troubled teenage girls. In that film, she co-starred with another teen actress who was at the time just as little-known. Her name was Kate Winslet, and after “Sense and Sensibility” and “Titanic” in the next couple of years, everyone knew her name. Lynskey, though she’s worked steadily in movies and television in the intervening years, is still one of those actresses whose face and voice you might recognize, but whose name remains elusive: she was the quiet co-worker in “Shattered Glass”; George Clooney’s bride-to-be sister in “Up in the Air”; Matt Damon’s wife in “The Informant!” Now she’s finally got a movie of her own: “Hello I Must Be Going,” in which she’s in every scene as a young divorced woman who moves back in with her parents, screened at Sundance on opening night. (Lynskey notes in the article that when she didn’t hear back soon after reading for the role, she assumed that it would go to “Michelle Williams or Maggie Gyllenhaal.”) It’s too soon to know if “Hello I Must Be Going” will have a life post-Sundance — currently it doesn’t have distribution — but it’s nice to hear of this longtime supporting actress finally finding a spolight.

“I’m a character actress, and I’m very grateful for all that I’ve gotten to do,” she told the 1,000 or so people packed into the Eccles Theater here [at Sundance] after the lights came up. “But this was just something that was so fully realized, a complete journey that this person makes. It felt like such a gift.”

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