It's a dilemma that confronts writers and filmmakers all the time: tell a story about family or friends, about major events such as marriages, divorces, births, deaths, and everybody thinks you're plundering from your own life. Art as autobiography, autobiography as art.
, whose second film,
, opened Friday at the Ritz Five and Showcase at the Ritz Center/NJ, knows the problem well. Because
is about a grown sister and brother, Wendy and Jon Savage (
Philip Seymour Hoffman
) dealing with their frail, dementia-stricken dad, the assumption is that Jenkins likewise grappled with the parent-care predicament.
Well, yes and no.
"What's real and what's fiction?" says the writer-director, happy to draw some lines.
"In terms of this movie, there was a very personal chord to it in that I had two family members that had dementia and had lived their last days in a nursing home - my father and my grandmother. But it's not like a strict retelling of that story. . . . It's a fiction, but I took aspects of my life."
Instead of Linney's character's one brother, a college professor in Buffalo, Jenkins has three brothers - all professors. "I've never been to Buffalo," she adds, and she hadn't set foot in Sun City, Ariz., where the movie dad, played exquisitely by
"And Phil Hoffman's character is like an ex-boyfriend of mine, but he's also like my husband, and like one of my brothers, mixed with an old friend of mine," Jenkins says. "It's sort of a weird thing people do, you know - the Cuisinart of your imagination."
A funny, poignant portrait of disconnected siblings who come together over the crisis of finding a facility for their father,
marks the first time that the esteemed New York actors Hoffman and Linney have worked together.
"I know!" Jenkins says, beaming. "I just like the notion of them together. They're these two strong American actors, often in independent film, and also they traipse back and forth on the New York stage.
"Yeah, it was a good idea. I'm glad I was the first one to think of it."
Jenkins cast Hoffman first, fresh off his best-actor Academy Award for
. She nabbed Linney the following week.
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
straight after us - another movie about messed-up siblings," she quips, hanging out in a Center City hotel on a recent visit.
"And I hadn't seen
when I met him. I sort of had a crush on him based on a whole different series of things. . . . And then I met him and I knew very quickly that he would be great. . . .
"I liked the strippedness of this character for him. The character is armored with this intellectual facade, but he's really protecting this much-more-vulnerable thing."
Jenkins, 45, was born in Lankenau Hospital in Wynnewood. Her mother still lives in the area, but the filmmaker had a peripatetic childhood that took her from Lower Merion to Los Angeles, from Cambridge, Mass., to New York. An alum of the NYU Film School master's program, she now lives in New York's East Village with her husband, the screenwriter (and
, and their Jack Russell terrier,
There was a stretch of more than nine years between Jenkins' writing/directing debut, the (yes) semiautobiographical,
Slums of Beverly Hills
The gap between pictures included a messy and frustrating false start on a
biopic. (Sans Jenkins, it turned into the
After shooting last year, and premiering
in January at Sundance, Jenkins is glad to finally have her movie in theaters. Its fate? Who knows?
"It's like some sculptor builds this massive thing, and then they put it in the park," she says. "I'm sure there's a day when the sculptor is sitting there - 'There it is, it's in the park!' - and people are walking by. And some people are skating by and not even looking at it, other people are taking pictures of it, a dog [relieves itself] on it.
"Hopefully, the right people will stop and take a picture of it, and look at it and think about it. But you never know."
Jenkins, who has also published short stories, says that right now, "I have little ideas brewing, but I'm not officially writing because there's the writers strike.
"But I am writing my diary, which is OK, according to the Writers' Guild. You're allowed to write in your diary, you're just not allowed to negotiate - and I'm not negotiating with anybody with regards to the publication of my diary. I promise you that."
Schnabel in short pants.
As a kid growing up in the Coney Island precincts of Brooklyn, N.Y.,
- world-famous painter, and director of the just-out
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
- spent as much time as he could in the dark. In the Kingsway movie theater, to be precise.
was a big picture for me, growing up," says Schnabel, referring to
creepfest. (Polanski was a big help to Schnabel while he was in France shooting
, and Mrs. Polanski, the actress
, is one of the film's stars.)
Schnabel also warmly remembers
Cecil B. DeMille's
The Ten Commandments
. "I love when the Red Sea opened up, you know. Egyptians floating around under the water with their chariots - that was wild, no?"
A couple of '50s fantasy flicks stick in his consciousness, too: the
in the title role, and the cartoon feature
"I liked that a lot, when I was really little. 'There's a guy on the beach!' " he mimics. " 'Forever be faithful da da da da,' " he sings. "Great cartoon, man."
has announced his next film -
Los abrazos rotos
in his native tongue (or
The Broken Hugs
if you believe Google's language translation tools). "It's a four-way tale of
, shot in the style of '50s American film noir at its most hard-boiled," the director told Variety, adding that he has cast his frequent leading lady
, along with
. To be shot in Madrid in the spring, and set in the 1990s and the present day, Almodovar's pic will pay
, or homage, to, he says,
In a Lonely Place
The Bad and the Beautiful.
He also told the trade that Cruz's role will be modeled on
, and on the
How do you say