Melanie Lynskey is an indie queen. The New Zealand-born actress went from starring in “Heavenly Creatures” as a teen to a rich career making the types of movies Hollywood doesn’t fund anymore: the ones about relationships, about people, about foibles and neuroses and bizarre but recognizable feelings. The latest is “Rainbow Time,” a dramedy about a man named Todd (Timm Sharp) who’s serious enough with his girlfriend Lindsay (Lynskey) to introduce her to his family. They happen to include an old school dad (Tobin Bell) and Shawnsy (Linas Phillips), Todd’s “slow” brother, who has the brain and the sexual drive of a teenage boy. Phillips, who also wrote and directed, coaxed Lynskey onto his dream project after doing an episode of “Togetherness,” her sadly passed HBO show with the Duplass brothers — like “Rainbow Time” a sharp and jagged look at people struggling to cohabitate.
Lynskey talks to us about indies, acting for friends and being chummy with the most evil people in the world: film critics.
Lindsay is thrown into this strange family, but she’s really open and understanding about it and doesn’t judge.
I think she’s understanding to the point where she makes it harder for Todd. Because he knows them. He grew up with them, he knows what the deal is. Even though I think he’s a little over-sensitive about it, she kind of forces him to places he doesn’t want to go to.
The movie doesn’t get dark, but it does go to some weird places.
I think if this had come from a stranger I would have been more nervous about it, for sure. But knowing how gentle and loving Linas is, I really trusted he would be able to get it right.
You knew Linas from a stint he had on “Togetherness.” You seem to work a lot with friends. “The Intervention” was something you did for your best friend, Clea DuVall, and she got you to play a character you haven’t before: a bossy alcoholic.
I think she really wanted to write something for me where I got to do a lot of things she finds funny when I do them in real life, which is pretending to be drunk and pretending to be a very bossy person. Because it’s so different from me. It was really fun to have someone who knows me better than literally everyone else in the world create something for me.
Did Linas write the “Rainbow Time” role for you?
He wrote it with me in mind, but I know it’s based on somebody he knows. You have to be a little bit like, “It’s mine now.” [Laughs] He was a little bit protective. Sometimes he would start talking to me about how the actual person responds to things, and I’d like, “Ok, but…” But he was good at giving it over to me. It’s just sweet that he was so protective. He cared so much about this movie.