Combustible Celluloid

Interview with Parker Posey

Hold That Posey

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

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Parker Posey is tired.

On a recent visit to San Francisco to promote her new movie Personal Velocity -- opening in Bay Area theaters on Friday -- she tries to fight off the drowsiness with a complete 180-degree toe-touching stretch, revealing a sleek form not unlike a skin diver's.

"I'm just trying to get some blood to my head," the exhausted actress says.

When you work as hard as Posey does, you have a right to be tired.

After her 1995 breakthrough role in Party Girl, Posey was dubbed the "Queen of the Inides," and appeared in an average of five movies a year, notably: Flirt, Basquiat, The Daytrippers, SubUrbia, Waiting for Guffman, Henry Fool, Clockwatchers, Best in Show and The Anniversary Party.

In 1997, she earned rave reviews for her performance as a Jackie-O wannabe in The House of Yes, and even began landing small parts in mainstream movies like You've Got Mail, Scream 3, Josie and the Pussycats and The Sweetest Thing.

In most of those films, Posey plays with a kind of comic restrained insanity; she goes right up to the brink of tension and breaks it by suddenly turning a sharp corner. She's a brilliantly instinctive comic.

She even comes across as a bit of a goofball in real life. She's not above suddenly raising the volume of her voice simply for the shock value of it. At one point, an intruder knocked on the door, and she answered with an ear-splitting "COME IN!"

But in her new film, she plays Greta, one of three women who face life-changing moments in Personal Velocity. Based on three short stories by Rebecca Miller (Arthur Miller's daughter), the segments run back to back, starting with Delia (Kyra Sedgwick), continuing with Greta, and closing with Paula (Fairuza Balk).

In her story, Greta is a crackerjack book editor stuck hacking at cookbooks. She's also about to be married to a nice, safe man still working on his thesis. One day she gets a call from a hot young author who wants her to do her worst on his latest novel. During their time together they strike up an affair, and Greta must decide if she wants a life on the safe side or on the fast track.

It's a good, meaty and somewhat serious role for Posey, and it could mean a whole new direction for her. But she remains skeptical.

"It's a trend of this country," she says while knitting a bulky pink scarf. (It helps her relax, she says.) "You have to make movies for the world market. Can it be a videogame? Or a violent movie with guns and car chases? Intimate stories about families or love aren't going to please the guys in those countries. I went to Morocco and they have posters of Arnold Schwartznegger holding guns. It really makes me mad."

She says that the "Queen of the Indies" tag never really helped her at all. "It didn't pay me any money, that's for sure. You can't sign a check with 'Indie Queen' on it."

The roles she was offered simply began to lessen in quality or peter out altogether. She even frankly admits that she doesn't even have her next job lined up. In fact, she's been spending her time doing pottery.

"I'd take something not-so-great if it wasn't too embarrassing," she says, half-laughing. "It's so hard to find good parts in the studio system. They're foils, or neighbors, or confidants of the lead -- just neurotic enough that the guy doesn't like her. That's where you can make money."

If that's not bad enough, Posey is also upset about her own stomping ground: comedies. "Comedies are so infantile right now. Here we are as grownups and we're not represented in our own movies."

Still, Posey remains extremely proud of Personal Velocity, perking up when the subject changes to her new movie.

"I think this movie shows me in another light. Hopefully it's like Party Girl ten years ago. You can't really play someone who's intelligent and have them be boring."

Posey expounds on the wonders of shooting on digital video, which she first experienced on last year's The Anniversary Party. She loves the idea of acting a scene straight through without having to stop; when you stop, you lose the energy. "You can keep the reality," she says.

"When we did Party Girl we didn't have enough money to shoot scenes more than 2 or 3 times, so we had to rehearse and I was always conscious of that. We didn't rehearse for this. Everything's happening for the first time."

Oddly, the three actresses did not meet with each other until the movie was finished. When they finally bumped into each other at a screening, they could not contain their joy at being involved in a quality project.

Posey smiles with a note of bittersweet: "It's exciting to be in something good."

November 22, 2002

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