I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
Jena Malone has always been a talent to watch, ever since she sprung on the scene in CONTACT (1997) and STEPMOM (1998). You instantly recognized a sincerity and genuineness about her.
Today, she can be seen starring opposite Richard Gere in Oren Moverman’s visceral film TIME OUT OF MIND. Moverman, like Derek Cianfrance (BLUE VALENTINE, THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES), is the type of filmmaker who is not shy to expose everything and take you to dark, often uncomfortable places– such can be seen in his earlier work (THE MESSENGER, RAMPART). He structures something so smart and emotionally resound with TIME OUT OF MIND, that even when you feel like you’ve experienced it all, you dive deeper and find yourself completely immersed.
Moverman’s junior feature work follows the journey of George (an excellent Gere), a homeless man on the search for meaning and the repairment of his relationship with his estranged daughter (Malone).
Malone, who is continuing her streak of peculiar work in and out of major studios, such as THE HUNGER GAMES (CATCHING FIRE, MOCKINGJAY) and even her small-but-effective part in INHERENT VICE, capitalizes in a big way here with TIME OUT OF MIND. She approaches her character with the same great strength that made her a star all those years ago. She hammers her way into every scene she’s in, especially near the film’s end, by layering her character Maggie with affection, grief and a spice of mystery.
Fresh Fiction had the opportunity to speak with Malone this morning about her role in the film, how movies can alter our perceptions of the real world, and the genius of Moverman.
This is such a great experience-film. I’ve never seen a film capture homelessness quite like this one does. What are some other experience-films that you like, that maybe altered your perception of life?
Jena Malone: “Oh my God. I mean, there’s so many. ANDREI RUBLEV– I remember seeing that at a young age and being completely, completely moved beyond words. That one seen with the bell castor and the son. His father passed away and everyone thinks that he was given the secret of how to cast a giant bell. It’s just so beautiful. It’s so simple. I mean, THE MESSENGER was another one of those films that sort of takes you on this experience, you know?”
Absolutely. Moverman’s work, like Derek Cianfrance of BLUE VALENTINE and THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES, kind of takes you on these rides and puts you in the shoes of his characters.
Malone: “Definitely. Yeah. He’s definitely a very interesting filmmaker, Oren. It’s a pleasure to be on his rolodex when he wants to do castings. We’ve become very good friends now. It’s a gift to get to work with him again and again.”
I bet. Has being a part of his movie kind of changed how you react when maybe a homeless person accosts you in the street?
Malone: “Yeah. I mean, I grew up really poor. I know what it’s like to have nothing. It’s still a really easy thing to forget about, which is wild. I mean, I feel like it just becomes this sort of black hole, that we stop seeing them. We just stop seeing them. We stop seeing them as humans. We stop seeing them as people with their own stories.
I think that this film really shatters as much as it mends inside of your own heart, in the sense that you can’t … You see the story now. You see the human.”
Yeah! I know for a lot of people out there, their phones are kind of like their security blanket. You see shots in the movie when people walk in the street of the city talking on their phones while they walk past people begging for change. People just feel uncomfortable and pull out their phone. Do you have any kind of security blanket for when you feel uncomfortable?
Malone: “Yeah. I mean, each society kind of gives their people a new form of that. If I was a woman in 1800s, it would be my parasol and my gloves that I can fidget with. It could be a book that I was carrying. This 21st century, almost 22nd century, the woman that I am, of course I use my phone. It’s handy and it also has the police just on the other line in case anything happens. I mean, it’s this false sanctity. It’s not wrong. Every society needs something to feel safe behind when you’re walking alone or into a place that feels like it could be dangerous or amongst people that you don’t know. I don’t think that’s such a bad thing.”
I agree. That’s why I appreciated that scene in the film where that woman asks for her friend or significant other to stay on the phone with her when she was around Richard Gere’s character.
Malone: “Yeah. Totally.”
One of the first things I took notice of when watching this movie, and I watched it on my laptop with my headphones in, was the sound. The street sounds, people chatting– it felt almost like a orchestra to me.
Malone: “It’s so beautiful. Incredible sound man that did this film. I mean, he did LAST DAYS. I don’t know if you ever saw that. I feel like he did something very similar. With that film in the sense of building an orchestra of diegetic noises. No, what he did with this is just mind blowing. I mean, if anyone is a sound nerd, you have to watch this film because it’s just beautiful.”
Did he record it any differently from the past films you’ve worked on?
Malone: “He was constantly recording. We’d be shooting on Avenue A or whatever and he’d be recording down on 6th St.–“
Malone: “– on his lunch hour and then coming back and recording as he went and recording multiple mic setups because we were shooting through sometimes four panes of glass, four buildings away from where the actual scene was taking place. We were shooting through so many different environments. There was so much to capture. I feel like he did it in such a sort of simple, glorious way.”
On top of the sound, I felt like the music was equally strong. It’s very subtle. The title of the film kind of comes from music as well. But you also have your music in this film. Did Oren ask for that? How did that kind of come about?
Malone: “In the film, I play a woman who’s in a band, and I think when he first started talking to me about it, he was like, ‘You know, just think about the kind of music she makes.’ I make music. I remember having some down time and just kind of doodling with some stuff. He was really inspired by the music of Savages, which I love that girl group. They’re such amazing musicians, and I’m not [Laughs]. I’m just sort of a doodler and I play and I do a bunch of stuff. I kind of came up with this one little song that was just really an idea. I hadn’t really done much to it. It was really simple. I think I recorded it really haphazardly and whatever. I sent it to him with a couple other ideas. I was like, ‘Here’s kind of what I was thinking for what her music might sound like,’ or songs that if we needed to see that they were recording or practicing or something.
I saw the final cut and he kept that one song in. That one that was just kind of like I just threw together. I was really surprised. I’ve never had my own song kind of go over a scene that I was in, too. It’s really wild.”
Yeah. I really liked it. I found it to be very effective, the placement of it. What’s maybe the most effective use of a song in a movie for you?
Malone: “I don’t know about most effective, but I know that for me when I first really got hit by music and realized the power of how you can use it, was in DONNIE DARKO. I remember seeing that when I was– I mean, I shot it when I was sixteen, and then when it came out I was like seventeen or something. I was into music but I wasn’t a super music nerd. I was just learning my music taste. I remember when the Tears For Fears song–“
“Head Over Heels?”
Malone: “‘Head Over Heels,’ thank you. Yes. When that song came on in the hallway of the school and ended with going into the classroom, it was the most epic song. I was just so out of my mind. I just thought it was like, ‘wow, this is what you can do with music.’ I don’t know if it’s the best whatever, but it was kind of my first time that I ever saw something like that.”
I’m right there with you. Also in regards to the end of the film – I’m going to dance around what actually happens – I loved the film’s ambiguous ending. Would you ever bail on a movie if you loved the journey but didn’t like the ending?
Malone: “No. I don’t think I would get that far to ever say yes to something that I questioned so much. I think endings are hard, a hard thing for anything. Saying goodbye to your parents after not seeing them for a bit or saying goodbye to all your class members when you’re leaving senior year, saying goodbye to a loved one who’s passing away– endings are hard. They’re not just hard in the film industry. It’s a hard thing to figure out how you want to say goodbye to something.
I enjoy the struggle of trying to find the right or the wrong or the weird in it. It strengthens you as a story teller, the more you can pay attention to those details. I don’t think I would ever shy away from that. I think it’s something to kind of throw yourself into.”
I also like the moment at the end: this realization for Maggie and that feeling of regret. Are you someone who lives with regret or do you dwell much on the past?
Malone: “I don’t know if I dwell much on the past but I definitely think about the future a lot. I think about how I can or what I want or these things. Sometimes just sort of imagining the future affects the present, and then therefore affects the past. I feel like I can become obsessed with ideas that I want to do that aren’t working or aren’t right. There can be regrets within that. I don’t try to. You can’t change anything, really. You just have to live the moment that you’re in.”
Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much for your time today. Good luck with the film, and I can’t wait for MOCKINGJAY – PART 2 and NEON DEMON.
Malone: “Thank you! Yeah, me too. I’m excited.”
TIME OUT OF MIND opens in limited release this Friday, and will be available On-Demand on September 18.