5 Parker Posey Characters We Love
Posted on: 14/03/2016
Interviewer: "What is it about you that made you qualified to be head Fresh- "
Darla Marks: "I’m just bad, honey, I'm just bad!"
So said Darla Marks in her interview about why she’s worthy of queen bee status in Dazed and Confused.
A veritable character chameleon, Parker Posey is an actor whose career longevity is based on roles that have always had one thing in common: personalities she can make her own. Whether it’s running away from Ghostface as Jennifer/“Gale” in Scream 3, or being roped into a world of international espionage as Fay Grim, Posey’s range is astounding.
As a salute to her prowess as a character actor and in celebration of our In Praise of Parker Posey film program, we take a look at five of her awesome performances.
She rules the school
When Parker Posey erupted onto our screens in Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused, people fell for the sassy and somewhat ruthless cheerleader, Darla Marks. Set in Austin, Texas, the cult coming-of-age film follows a group of rowdy teenagers celebrating the last day of high school in 1976, with Posey’s Darla leading the revelry. From the hair, accents and cars to the drive-ins, beer parties and retro soundtrack, this seminal '90s stoner comedy is a vivid snapshot of south-west life during the era.
But apart from the perms and paddling, what is so refreshing about about Linklater’s film is the sprawling nature of it. It feels like we’ve all had these conversations before at some point with our friends; in the high school parking lot, on the sports ground, in the hallways. Boasting a collective sense of invincibility, the teenagers wax lyrical about society’s ills, sex, everything and nothing.
The popularity of the movie owes much to the fact that Linklater gave the actors freedom to improvise. The result of this trust is perhaps why the dialogue sounds so sincere, delivered with a realism that makes you believe these are high schoolers plagued with a sense of listlessness and uncertainty about the future.
This was perfect for Posey who played up her ‘badass cheerleader’ persona. It's here that we first glimpse her artfully extending what could easily be a one-dimensional bitch into a fierce, independent woman. Darla’s a big fish in the pond, throwing around her weight and testing the limits of her power. Posey’s range and ability to find nuance in a role, even in her first feature, ensured that Darla was to be as much revered as she was feared.
As Dazed and Confused garnered legions of fans, so did Posey with Time magazine conferring the mantle “Queen of the Indies” on her in 1997. The film also fuelled the careers of her co-stars Matthew McConaughey, Ben Affleck, and Milla Jovovich.
Fun watching/re-watching challenge: see if you can spot Renée Zellweger as an extra.
Skipping forward in Posey’s career, we meet Meg Swan in Christopher Guest’s spoof documentary, Best in Show. Playing one half in a duo of neurotic dog owners hell bent on winning a dog show, Posey deals out equeal doses of composure and grace with unbridled anxiety.
Posey as the uptight, Meg Swan
Meg and her husband Hamilton are the antithesis of cool and collected where their prized pooch is concerned. Introduced during a counselling session, we learn that the the highly-strung, well to do, educated, yuppie pair are perhaps a little unhinged, which is an absolute joy to behold.
Posey demonstrates her flawless timing and ability to dig deep into a character, portraying Meg’s lack of self-awareness and self-entitlement sublimely. Though Posey makes jokes at Meg’s expense, it never feels malicious, and likewise Michael Hitchcock with Hamilton. The couple’s white picket fence lifestyle is always tempered with vulnerability and a lack of inner peace.
As with all Christopher Guest’s films, the cast are encouraged to really improvise their lines. It’s hard to image how Posey and Hitchcock managed to keep their dialogue so wonderfully natural when they routinely flew into panic and anger over their poor “stressed” dog, Bea.
This way of working seems to suit Posey though and she hooks us from the very beginning with the exceptionally vanilla line, “we are so lucky to have been raised amongst catalogues”.
Flighty but spikey
Posey’s romantically evasive and enchanting Miami in Kicking and Screaming offers a complete contrast to Meg Swan and further cemented her status as an indie darling.
A Noah Baumbach classic, the arthouse film was a perfect canvas for the various players to revel in their characters. As blogger Ransom suggests, arthouse flicks in the 90s fell into three main categories, one of which was character driven:
“Typically, at arthouse theatres in the 1990s, cinema goers could find three varieties of films: foreign imports, heist films, and dry, talky, relationship flicks in which the characters marveled not only at their own understandings and misunderstandings of interpersonal relationships but also popular culture. There was a whole genre of films in which twenty-somethings did nothing other than pursue themselves romantically and offer postmodern dialogue about pop ephemera.”
Posey treats us to relationship gold on screen as a flighty but clear-eyed college grad, eager to leave the nest but finding reasons to hold herself in place. The sincerity with which she shares intimate moments and conversations with her boyfriend, Skippy (Jason Wiles), challenge the stereotypical twenty-somethings on screen romances, asking “are we ok?” as opposed to “let's face some issues and then fairy-tale ending!” We're looking at you any Meg Ryan movie, ever.
Posey's Miami messing with Skippy
The girl next door
What’s extraordinarily powerful about Posey as Nora Wilder is that we all know this person in our lives. That is our beautiful, whip smart, funny, kind friend who wants love, but it seems to have not yet struck.
Broken English captures this experience with a portrait of a woman in her 30s, still single, who feels that love will always elude her after a series of disappointing dates. In a wryly amusing and simultaneously poignant scene, Nora’s mother ventures: “The good ones get snapped up so quickly at your age”. “I think I must be doing something horribly wrong, but I don’t know what it is,” Nora replies.
Posey and de Matteo as besties in Broken English
Posey flawlessly captures the desires and worries of her character. How much is she willing to sacrifice to pursue her dreams? What are her dreams? Does attending a fortune teller for spiritual advice officially mean she’s lost it? Nora must dig deep in order to change her situation and with the help of her best friend Audrey (Drea de Matteo, The Sopranos), the two set about shaking things up.
In a Hollywood flooded with bromances, Broken English is a refreshing take on a romantic comedy. Instead of focusing solely on the journey to find a man, the film also takes time to explore Nora’s needs and her bond with Audrey. Posey realises Nora’s inner conflict and plays it out on screen beautifully, affording us the opportunity to sit in a circle with the two women and lament about the handsome French man throwing her life into disarray. BYO glass of wine!
Ja,n (Just Act, Naturally)
She might not feature in an indie sleeper, or blockbuster film, but Ja,n has all of the trademark Posey gloriousness worthy of being in this list.
In the lead up to the 2012 Emmys, a video was released featuring Parker Posey to promote the awards night. And it was amazing.
Poking fun at herself and her particular craft, the video pays homage to Posey’s ability to transform into another person on screen. It’s not Posey, it never was – it’s Ja,n. Her off-beat comedy, charm and quirky antics ensure that Ja,n could be that acting coach in L.A. just down the street from you, though a slightly exaggerated version (or maybe not).
Perhaps most fittingly, Ja,n discusses committing to the moment and to acting. It is this commitment to being a completely different person that makes Posey so compelling to watch. We can laugh at, cringe, empathise, and fall in love with her vast array of personas over the last few decades.
In Posey we trust
As she shapeshifts from Dairy Queen server (Waiting for Guffman) to clubbing regular (Party Girl), Posey ensures each person we meet feels like someone who we could encounter in every day existence. Undoubtedly, we'd find them fascinating.
Perhaps this is the most alluring thing about Posey. Her characters are accessible but slightly askew, they are real but keep us guessing, they are us yet distant enough to find comical. However you choose to look at it, we're enamoured with her and we’d do an Air Raid for Posey any day.
- Miles Openshaw, Digital and Social Media Advisor
In Praise of Parker Posey runs from 13 March to 28 March.comments powered by Disqus