Larson, Stanfield charm Eberfest audience
CHAMPAIGN — After hearing that actress Brie Larson was coming to Ebertfest, a movie-industry type in Los Angeles told festival emcee Chaz Ebert she would really like the young actress.
Check out this UI journalism class' social media coverage of Ebertfest here
"I was told, 'She's so smart and she's so conscious,' and they're right. I love you," she said as she introduced Larson to the Ebertfest audience on Thursday afternoon, before the screening of "Short Term 12," with Larson in the lead role.
After that intro, Larson quipped to the Ebertfest audience: "No way am I going to live up to your expectations."
She did, though.
After the movie ended, she and actor Keith Stanfield received a standing ovation as they returned to the Virginia stage.
In "Short Term 12," Larson plays, Grace, a 20-something counselor at a center for at-risk teens. Stanfield plays Marcus, one of her teen charges who would turn 18 in a week and leave the center.
Director Destin Daniel Cretton wrote the script after he worked at a similar center and created a short film on the subject. The script is realistic and intelligent — so is Larson as Grace. She is always in character, even when no dialogue is being spoken.
"In movies it's always about what's being said," Larson said. "I'm more interested in what's not said."
"Movie Mom" critic Nell Minow, who handled the Q-and-A with Larson and Stanfield (who is quite funny), said Larson's turn as Grace was the critic's favorite performance of the year.
Minow said she also loved Larson in "The Spectacular Now," shown at the 2013 Ebertfest, and in "Don Jon."
In the latter, Larson spoke one line but nailed it, Minow said.
Larson said she had only three weeks to prepare for the role of Grace; she spent part of that time shadowing employees at a youth facility.
"It's incredible what these line staff people do — they go above and beyond," Larson said. "They have a lot of authority and little authority at the same time."
Most of them, she added, are just out of college and are telling their youthful charges not to do things they do once they get home from work, like drink beer.
"It's a very strange dichotomy," Larson said.
The actress shadowed one woman who had been doing the exhausting job for 27 years.
"How do you do it?" Larson asked her.
"You let go," the woman replied.
That became the basis for Larson creating Grace, who herself had been a troubled teen who was failing to talk about and let go of her past. After connecting with a center resident who is facing similar problems, Grace eventually lets go but in a believable, not mawkish way.
Creating his character, Stanfield said he acted in the present moment and did not think too much of his character's past or future.
"The good thing is I rap already so that was a great thing," he said.
As Marcus, Stanfield performs a couple of rap numbers — he and Cretton collaborated on one, meeting "halfway" on the lyrics.
"Short Term 12," released last year, also shows the teens as well as Grace drawing and making art, and connecting through that process.
Making art was a tool Larson said she used to get through her own adolescence.
She continues to make art — her work is featured on the specials of the DVD of "Short Term 12." She also is a songwriter who's released albums and she writes. She is working on a script now that she hopes to direct.
"I want to be a director now when people want me to be an actor," said Larson, who is in demand and has been touted as the next big thing in Hollywood.
As an actress, she was in a musical shot in India and in "The Gambler," starring Mark Wahlberg. The latter is not an independent film "so will definitely come out before the end of the year," Larson said.
She and others who made "Short Term 12" created a website that encourages adolescents to post on it their own songs and drawings.
"I think art is the most powerful thing," Larson said.
The screening of "Short Term 12" was sponsored by the Champaign County Alliance for the Promotion of Acceptance, Inclusion and Respect, formerly known as the Champaign County Anti-Stigma Alliance.
Writer-director Jem Cohen's "Museum Hours" was shown before "Short Term 12" on Thursday.
"It's slow. It's quiet. You might not be able to tell what it is. None of that matters. It's your movie. You make it as it goes," the New York-based director told the audience as he introduced his film.
Roger Ebert had seen "Museum Hours," shot in Vienna, Austria, and loved it, his wife said.
It tells of an art museum guard, played by Robert Sommer, who is not a professional actor, who strikes up a platonic friendship with Anne, a middle-aged Canadian woman, played by Mary Margaret O'Hara, who is visiting Vienna to see a cousin she hasn't seen for years. The cousin is lying comatose in a Vienna hospital.
The movie juxtaposes details in the paintings, many by Bruegel, in the Kunsthistorisches Art Museum with details in the streets outside, and with street people as well.
For more on Cohen and "Museum Hours," see his pre-Ebertfest Q-and-A with The News-Gazette at http://bit.ly/QCXUWt.