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Melanie Lynskey on her crazy new movie and wishing people were nicer

The actress talks about playing a grouch in the indie thriller "I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore."
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    Elijah Wood and Melanie Lynskey play ordinary Portlanders who try to find the thie|Netflix

In “I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore,” we get to see the very nice Melanie Lynskey play super grumpy. She’s Ruth, a depressed Portland woman who drinks crappy beer, wears dumpy clothes and thinks “everyone’s an asshole.” Her irritation with humankind reaches toxic levels after she’s burglarized. Eventually teaming up with a hipster neighbor (Elijah Wood), she becomes an amateur detective, trying to find the squatters who stole her laptop. That’s when things get crazy. The Sundance hit has a lot in common with Jeremy Saulnier’s “Blue Ruin” and “Green Room”: They’re all thrillers about regular people getting in way, way, way over their head. (As it happens, “Home”’s writer-director, Macon Blair, appeared as an actor in both.)

Lynskey — who just got engaged to fellow actor Jason Ritter, which is nice — talks to us about the catharsis of playing a grouch, hating inconsiderate jerks and staying active on set.

I’m sorry your character drinks Coors, which among the s—ty beers is one of the s—tiest.
[Laughs] Thankfully I was drinking some non-alcoholic beer, which is probably for the best. I kind of loved that, though. There’s a lot of things that were in the script that are so specific. Everything she did was the easiest. The outfits were the most comfortable and the most practical. She could wear that and no one would look at her. The beer is the cheapest that you can find anywhere. It’s all so easy.

Her outfit — jeans and a hoodie — seem like her statement to the world that she doesn’t care about them and they shouldn’t care about her.
Someone who I thought about when playing her was Gloria Steinem, of all people. Gloria Steinem gave this amazing speech about the freedom to truly be yourself. It made me think about this character. There was this freedom I felt in playing this character, because her clothes aren’t just about hiding her body. She’s just not thinking about anyone’s reactions to her. She’s just existing in this world without trying to put anything out there. Which is kind of powerful and crazy.

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I sort of related to her, because I’m also someone who gets annoyed with people who inconsiderate, even in tiny, insignificant ways.
Me too. Like, I don’t understand people who leave a mess. Even if you’re staying in a hotel room and someone’s going to clean the room. Some actors I work with say, “It’s great, you just leave your s— all over the place, they’ll pick it all up.” I’m like, ‘How can you do that?’ I just find that weird. Don’t you want to make someone’s day a little bit easier? Or people are like, “I don’t want to give someone a free ride! I don’t want to pay for someone’s healthcare!” Where the f— do you care where your taxes are going? You have to pay taxes! It’s just so weird. People are so selfish.

My feeling that everyone’s an asshole has greatly amplified since the election.
I think they’ve moved beyond assholes into sociopaths. [Laughs] It’s like, “Wow, are people evil?”

That said, this must have been a cathartic role to play — to play someone who is just annoyed by all the assholes out there.
It was so fantastic for me. It’s so hard for me to get angry, but when I do I feel amazing afterwards. [Laughs] It’s very difficult for me to get to that point, but then I’m like, “Why don’t you do this all the time?” I had such a good time on this movie. I know people always say that, but it’s usually not really true. [Laughs] The whole time we were like, “How can we make this a TV show so we can keep filming forever?”

This would be a great TV show. Every week she would find herself in some new, crazy mystery.
You’re hired!

We’ll take it back to Netflix.
“Remember how you loved this four months ago, when it was a movie?”

The hook is really interesting. Like “Blue Ruin” and “Green Room,” it’s about regular people who get in way over their heads. But the segue from indie to thriller feels organic, not cheap.
I know! Sometimes you’re reading a script and you just think of the writer saying, “You won’t believe what’s going to happen next!” They put little comments like that in the script. Somehow Macon didn’t do that. The emotional continuity of the character made so much sense to me. I really don’t like when it suddenly feels like a completely different movie and you have to readjust your brain. It felt all connected. It made so much sense.

This is also your most physically demanding role since, I guess, “Heavenly Creatures,” where you had to kill someone.
It was great, honestly. When you’re always moving, it keeps your energy up. That thing that gets depressing to me about acting is when you have too much time — when you have to sit and wait, especially if it’s an emotional scene and you have to wait to do it. This was so physical, and you just felt so tired at the end of the day. Whenever I get depressed I combat that by moving.

You should do an action movie. Then you’d always be moving. Matt Damon probably never has time to be bored when doing a “Bourne” movie.
Probably. Although I wonder. He probably has to do it from a million different angles and shoot the same thing for four days.

While I have you here, I should ask about your other big Sundance movie, which was “XX.” You’re in the short directed by Annie Clark, aka St. Vincent. So you’ve been directed by St. Vincent.
I know Annie a little bit through friends. She just out of nowhere said, “I wrote a short film; I’m going to direct it. Do you want to do it?” I just couldn’t imagine what it could be. And of course it’s hyper-stylized and weird and spooky and beautiful.

She’s one of those artists who I think could do anything, work in any medium, and it would probably be fascinating. I’d check out anything she did.
Yeah, me, too. And she was a wonderful director. I kept telling her, “You’re really good at this.” And she was surprised. “Am I really” And it was fun to wander around looking like latter day Elizabeth Taylor, with that crazy robe.

OK, I have to wrap up. Is there anything you want to add?
Do I want to add anything?

Sorry, I always ask that. You never know. Someone might blurt out a confession. I have no idea, I just ask it and see what happens.
I killed a man. [Laughs]

I knew it!
It was just some stranger. Anyway, that felt good.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge

 

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