Sunday, March 2, 2008

Radha Mitchell doesn't try to be sweet - on film or in real life. She speaks with Rachelle Unreich.

Radha Mitchell isn't likeable. Oh, in person she's fine, if a bit reserved: she answers questions only after careful consideration, as if each word might return to spite her one day (and, with the internet, that's always possible). But in her latest movie, Feast of Love, she's not likeable at all.

She plays an icy beauty who's having a doomed affair with a married man, until she meets a single guy who thinks the world of her. She accepts his proposal, walks down the aisle, and continues the affair, anyway. But Mitchell's character isn't wholly unsympathetic: the movie, directed by Robert Benton, offers nuanced portraits of lovers, not black-and-white ones.

And Mitchell is more interested in winning admirers of her work than fans of her personality. "(My character) is not making popular choices, I guess, and I think she's a kind of dark character who tries to go against her own grain and live a simpler life with someone who's offering her love, but it's not exactly coming in the shape that she craves," Mitchell says.

"She has to surrender to who she really is in the end, and just be who she is. She's not somebody who's charming, but I think she has to make an honest decision in the end, and most people can relate to that." Mitchell admits that several people on the set during production asked, "Did she really say that, or should we change that? Because she's just horrible.

"I didn't think she was horrible, because I played her. If you play a character, you kind of love her, and you understand (her) or make sense of (her) choices.

"But I was on board for keeping her as hard-edged as possible, because it's unique. In films, they always soften the edges of a woman and make her loveable or sweet or giving, whereas this woman is quite selfish and she's into herself, and what is love to her is probably a little bit different to what love is to somebody else."

Also notable, at least by Hollywood standards, are the explicit sex scenes. They don't form the main part of the movie but it's an area that's had a lot of press coverage.

Mitchell bristles, somewhat, at the mention of those scenes, sighing, "I thought you were going to be the one interviewer that wasn't going to ask me about that . . . I guess I can only say that what's great about the story is it aspires to be as honest as possible...There is this sense of reality in that, in the love scenes, people aren't hiding under sheets. It feels very real, and I think that definitely helps facilitate the story. I don't think you can talk about love without talking about sex on some level."

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