"Laura is somebody who’s just able to express 20 years of back-story, just in a glance," says writer-director Kidd. "The movie doesn’t work if you don’t set up this kind of midlife desperation, so that this headlong thing that happens in the movie is believable."
Linney’s character Louise is a 39-year-old divorcee/admissions officer at Columbia University who comes across a charming young man who eerily has the same name as her first boyfriend – a guy who broke her heart and was tragically killed 20 years before. F. Scott Fitzgerald, played by Topher Grace, not only looks like her lost love, but also talks and paints like him. The film explores the supernatural aspect of reincarnation, but more so, focuses on Louise’s struggle to look beyond the past pain and damage that – two decades later – still has such a strong grasp on her ability to trust and love.
Being a low, low budget film (Laura Linney even used a lot of her own clothes for wardrobe) there was virtually no rehearsal, and the actors had to be very on-the-mark in terms of understanding their characters and knowing what was needed in each scene.
Trained at Julliard and brought up in New York City’s theater world, Linney showed her chops in her ability to convey Louise’s suppressed anguish and vulnerability.
"Laura has the most solid basis of technique and training of anybody I’ve ever met," raves Kidd. "She shows up, and she has the most raging flu of all time, but she’s done her preparation. She’s done her technique and she can get there every day."
Linney says she was drawn to the complexity of this role, the intensity of this period of Louise’s life.
"[It’s] the element of grief over a past love that you never get over, that you carry around with you forever," explains Linney. "Everybody has that – It’s what we all choose to do with it. Whether it liberates us or paralyzes us is the big question. The indication of someone’s character is what they do with it."
While Linney didn’t necessarily relate to her character personally – she guffawed when asked if she had any destructive best friends like Marcia Gay Harden’s character, Missy, in real life – and when asked if she’s ever dated someone so young, she coyly remarked, "I have never had the pleasure of dating someone much younger than myself. Life is long, who knows what will happen?"
Linney did find that a lot of Louise’s elements resonated with her. "People who have worked their whole life and really done everything they thought they should do, and then their life doesn’t turn out the way they thought it would. They look around and they can’t believe it." She also drew on observations of "when someone is their own worst enemy, when they self-sabotage, when they paint themselves emotionally into a corner. When they try so hard."
As talented and multi-faceted as Linney has become, she never anticipated having such a career in film.
"I was intimidated by it," she says. "I grew up in the theater. The great surprise and joy of my life is to work in film."
Despite her numerous and successful film forays, her first love is still the theater. Linney recently performed on Broadway in "Sight and Seen," the revival of the same play that first got her attention for about 12 years ago. But this time around, she played the role of the older woman.
"It was great," Linney says with a smile. "I was a completely different human being. It was really an extraordinary thing to do."