Interview: Vera Farmiga on the deceptive darkness of ‘At Middleton’

Vera Farmiga plays a mom who falls into a chatty romance with a father (Andy Garcia) while on a college campus tour in "At Middleton." Credit: Getty Images
Vera Farmiga plays a mom who falls into a chatty romance with a father (Andy Garcia) while on a college campus tour in “At Middleton.”
Credit: Getty Images

Vera Farmiga has been one of America’s most versatile actors, able to do small — including in her own film, “Higher Ground” — and much bigger, as in “The Departed” and last summer’s “The Conjuring,” in addition to playing one of the most iconic bad mothers in the “Psycho” TV spinoff “Bates Motel.” In the deceptively light comedy “At Middleon,” she and Andy Garcia play a pair of married strangers who ditch their kids during a college tour for a day of shenanigans and self-discovery. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

The level of nuance in the characterizations here is refreshing. They’re both married, not necessarily being the best parents, yet the film doesn’t judge them.

I know, I know. It’s actually quite dark underneath it all. I think that’s the achievement of the piece, because you root for them. Complacency is the enabler of darker deeds. They don’t necessarily play by the rules, but I think what matters is what they have learned. To me, in a loftier way, it kind of ponders this idea of: Is love a decision? Is it something you choose to do?

Films with that kind of contained time period are always fun.

Yeah, the deadline, I love that: just the one day. That one day is enough to make you bigger or smaller. Although there’s so much swashbuckling to be had in that one 12-hour period — sun up to sun down.

It’s a bit odd to see you and your sister, Taissa Farmiga, playing mother and daughter.

I know, but she is like a daughter to me. As a matter of fact, I have a daughter named Gytta, and I will exchange their names all the time. And I like to think I’ve been like a surrogate mom to her in a way, a valid role model, kind of, for what’s scary, what’s not, what it means to take risks and be positive and optimistic. For me she was the only choice for the role. Had Andy not presented it, I would’ve pitched her immediately because I want to work with her — not for, like, nepotistic reasons, but I genuinely think she’s a formidable talent and she’s got some raw, beautiful ability. She’s unique. I had directed her and I knew her capacity within those scenes, but I wanted to share screen time with her. And this the last sort quality time we’ve probably had together.

Well, you’re both very busy with TV shows [Taissa is on "American Horror Story"].

Yeah, yeah. I love it. I love “Bates” and I love the people that I work with. It’s a formidable character. It’s pretty cool. We’ve gotten closer and we challenge each other more. Everybody’s more comfortable in their roles now, so I think Season Two is going to be pretty good, pretty vital.


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