Tribeca 2018: Molly Ringwald on ‘All These Small Moments’ | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
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Molly Ringwald with Brian d'Arcy James in 'All These Small Moments'

Tribeca 2018: Molly Ringwald on ‘All These Small Moments’

May 03, 2018 Web Exclusive
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In All These Small Moments, Molly Ringwald plays Carla Sheffield, a New York mother of two on the brink of divorce. She’s long fallen out of love with her husband (Bran d’Arcy James), who isn’t doing much himself to hide an extramarital affair. Her boys, Howie and Simon (Brendan Meyer and Sam McCarthy), are going through their own ordeals: Howie’s increasing obsession with an older woman (Jemima Kirke) who rides his bus has started to adversely affect his studies, while Simon is having difficulties coping with his parents’ crumbling marriage.

Though the film technically centers on Howie, Ringwald’s mother on the verge of crisis supplies much of its heart. We spoke with the actress ahead of the film’s premiere at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.

Austin Trunick [Under the Radar]: This film centers on a teenager named Howie going through a few real coming-of-age moments. You play his mother, who is also going through her own, potentially life-changing situation. What excited you about the role when you read the script?

Molly Ringwald: What I think I liked most about it was how complex the character was. I’ve played quite a few moms, and I am a mother in real life. I feel like very often the mother character is very one-note; she just sort of comes in and pats the kid on the head, saying “Oh, you’ll figure it out, Howie.” That’s just not this mother at all. She’s completely in crisis. She’s fallen out of love with her husband, and wants to end the marriage but doesn’t quite know how. It was an opportunity to see a mother who wasn’t quite so nice all the time. She was edgier, and more multi-layered. It’s more interesting to play as an actress.

This was Melissa Miller’s first feature as a director. Can you tell me how she was to work with?

She was great. She had a very clear idea about what she wanted to do, and a very close relationship with the DP – she knew how she wanted it to look. And I think because she wrote it, too, she was very specific about the style, the sound, and the rhythm, but she was also very open to collaboration and getting input and working with the actors. I really enjoyed working with her.

This film is about a teenager going through a tough patch in his life, and about how things that happen during those years may seem small to outsiders but feel massive to us at the time. You were already a movie star by your teen years – do you still relate with that being such a formative time?

I don’t know that it was my most formative time. It was a formative time. Every era that you go through in your life – every moment – is formative. Your teen years seem incredibly important and difficult and scary. Then your 20s seem that way, for different reasons. And then your 30s… Every single moment seems important in different ways.

In your most recent New Yorker piece, you touched on how rarely movies were made for and about teenagers when you starred in your John Hughes films. It’s still kind of rare today without it being set in some sort of fantastical scenario.

Mm-hm.

This film, though, is very grounded. Do you see a through line from those Hughes films to this, as far as it being a movie about actual teenagers and what they go through?

Well, it is similar in that it does follow the teenagers – they’re the ones who are moving the action along. That’s definitely similar. But, I do feel that this is more of a family story in a way that I can’t really think of in the John Hughes films. In those films, the parents are almost non-existent – they’re almost like the Peanuts gang, where the parents are like, “Wah-wahhh-wah-wah-wahhh.” [Laughs] You didn’t have any idea of who those parents were. In this, the parents really play a big part, and so I think they’re different in that way.

A lot of this film is essentially about what it’s like being a kid in New York City. I have an almost-three-year-old, and there are obviously great things about living here, but I feel there I have challenges and fears about being a parent that I feel are probably unique to this city. You’re raising your family here – what do you see as the pros and cons about being a parent in New York?

Well, I actually live outside of the city, and I made that choice for my kids. It kind of made more sense for us. I wanted them to have access to the city, but I didn’t want them to grow up in the city. One thing that I really do like about the East Coast as opposed to the West Coast is the public transportation. I mean, the fact that they don’t have to depend on driving. I mean, you’re not really concerned with that right now, but my daughter will be 15 in October and pretty soon she’s going to be able to drive. I think there’s just more peace of mind not having to think about my kids behind the wheel. That’s one little sliver of anxiety that I could do without right now, so I like that.

You mention that you’ve played a lot of mothers lately, and you’re working with teen actors here. Having done so much work when you were a teenager, does that affect your approach to working with them as an adult?

No, I don’t think so. I mean, I always thought I’d have an edge because I’ve always played all of these teenagers. I sort of naively thought that would give me an edge with my own kids. [Laughs] But, no. To her, I’m mom. To other kids I work with, I think I’m just a grown-up. A lot of them have seen the movies that I’ve done and liked them, but I wouldn’t say it’s given me any particular insight that anyone else wouldn’t have.

You act, obviously, but you also sing, and write, and you don’t dabble in any of those things – you do them all at a very high, professional level.

Thank you!

I like to ask people who are talented in multiple areas and exercise them all, how do you manage them at the same time? Do you compartmentalize them, or is it a matter of attacking each as you feel it…?

That’s a really good question. I’ve come to the realization that I can’t do them all at once, because inevitably something suffers. [Laughs] I’m able to do a bunch of different things, but I’ve had to sort of look at where I want the next 20 years to go, and what I’m the most interested in. For me, it’s going to be writing, and directing, and acting. I still really like music, but I don’t see myself touring right now because I really want to focus on writing and directing. I try to be as disciplined as I can about that as I possibly can but as you know, it’s hard.

It’s easier, in a way, when you have a deadline. I always work better with deadlines; like, an imposed, outside deadline. I’ve never been as disciplined when it was my own deadline. But when someone says, “You’re going to do this article, and you need to turn it in by this date,” I’ll do it.

It definitely helps to have someone lighting a fire beneath you.

Yeah. It’s a work ethic thing that I’ve always had. It was like, “Here’s your call time. This is when you show up,” and I’d do it. I mean, I never had that in school – I was terrible about getting stuff in, but that’s because it was school, you know? [Laughs] Work is work, and that’s real life – I don’t know, it’s this weird, psychological thing.

Your editorial on The Breakfast Club was great. There were a lot of questions I’d always wanted to ask you about that film, but your piece answered so many of them. I feel like one of the many perks of being a parent is getting to share the art that you love with your child, but that’s a movie I’ve grappled with. You said your daughter was 10 when she watched it, which you felt was too young. Is there an age to which you feel would be appropriate?

Well, I feel like she will probably see it on her own. I think had I not been in the movie, my daughter would have seen it on her own. She simply did not want to watch it with other people. I don’t know – maybe she thought it would be embarrassing. I think she just wanted to know what it was all going to be [beforehand], and that she knew she’d probably see it again. If she hadn’t specifically asked me for that reason, I don’t think that she would have – and at that moment, because she was 10, she still asked me before she did something.

It’s a film that’s really for teenagers, so I feel that’s probably the right age to watch it. But, I do think it’s nice to be able to have a conversation about it. Even the conversations that my own daughter and I had – we didn’t really have a conversation about the sexual stuff, because like I said, at that age a lot of that stuff just went over her head. But there was stuff that really resonated with her, about which character she related to and why. It was actually very emotional. She told me things that I don’t think I would have known had we not watched that movie and had that conversation. I think that’s one of the reasons why I don’t want to just completely discount them – that it’s not so black-and-white to me. But there are certain elements that are problematic because of the time they were made.

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All These Small Moments premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.



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