Lucas Hedges is not even 20 years old and he’s already worked with three great, very different filmmakers. He played the bully who got injured with scissors in Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom.” (Hedges later filed a bit part in “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”) He then appeared in “The Zero Theorem,” Terry Gilliam’s most recent film.
Now Hedges is in a very different mode. In Kenneth Lonergan’s “Manchester by the Sea,” he plays a teenager whose father (Kyle Chandler) has just died. In the aftermath, his character, named Patrick, spends a lot of time with his grouchy, depressed uncle (Casey Affleck), who has another tragedy in his past. The pair’s prickly relationship brings a lot of comedy to a deeply sad and honest film about grief and guilt. In fact, Hedges — the son of filmmaker Peter (“What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?”) and the actress/poet Susan Bruce — agrees with us that this film, which is definitely not a comedy, can be quite funny.
I have to admit I laughed a lot during this very, very sad movie. My screening was filled with laughter as well as tears, but I’ve heard about others where you could hear a pin drop. Do you find it, at times, funny?
Yeah, totally. I think Casey’s hilarious. Maybe it’s because I know him. I definitely don’t find all the tragic stuff about it funny, but there is something kind of funny when [a certain character, in the middle of one of cinema’s most wrenching ever sequences] is on a stretcher and they keep trying to load her into the ambulance, but it keeps falling down. Terry Gilliam, who’s a director I worked with, once told me about Graham Chapman’s funeral. John Cleese delivered this brilliant speech where he just made fun of him. And it was hilarious.
I love this idea that there’s never a wrong time to laugh. I’m not saying that people should be making fun of all the tragic things in the world, but something this movie does really well is it finds the humor in this profoundly tragic situation. A lot of the humor has to do with these boyish, teenage qualities that Patrick has. He has this great compass for how he wants to live his life, and when you make the juxtaposition between him and Casey’s character, the result is really funny.