In the new film, “L’immensita,” Penelope Cruz does what she has been doing throughout her career: she takes a three-dimensional character and finds evennew layers.
She stars as Carla in director Emanuele Crialese’s acclaimed new film, set in Italy in the 1970s. Carla and her husband Felice have moved into a new apartment, but their marriage is an unhappy one. Carla’s children are her saving grace. Twelve year old Andrew (Luana Giuliani), who was assigned female at birth, is having issues with his identity.
The Academy Award-winning Cruz has been seen in several LGBTQ-themed films with director Pedro Almodovar, including 2021’s “Parallel Mothers.” The actress said she fell in love with the script, her character and the story.
“It was a privilege to tell this,” Cruz told Georgia Voice.
The character of Clara is a complex one.
“Clara is living under huge amounts of suppression and repression from her own husband and the rest of the family,” Cruz said. “Her only salvation is to keep some sanity in the relationship with her children. It feels more comfortable and that is where she feels understood. She feels also proud that she can understand them, but she doesn’t have the freedom to give them the space to be themselves. She feels in a total prison, and she doesn’t have a Plan B.”
Cruz thinks many women in that situation, not just in the ’70s in Italy, but also today around the world, feel trapped.
“Even the ones that go ask for help, they are totally ignored and it is too late,” she said. “[Carla] didn’t have an option for a divorce, for a different kind of life. She keeps dreaming of a life with her children of a place in the universe where we can be ourselves and feel free.”
At the heart of the film is the bond between a mother and a child. Cruz and Giuliani are wonderful individually and together.
“I think their relationship is very beautiful, but also very sad,” Cruz said. “She understands Andrew, but she is not in a place where she can give that freedom that she needs. It is not allowed. She can really see more than the other adults, but is not allowed to help.”
To Cruz, the most emotional moments in the film are the musical numbers, as the characters dream of what life could be.
Director Crialese is an out trans man. For him, this is a very personal story.
“Every material that I wrote has been personal, but this is more openly personal,” he told Georgia Voice. “I think I waited to make this film because you need to be able to transcend your own life to make something that can have meaning for people to see and relate to. You also need to add the simplicity of being as direct as possible and as honest as possible in portraying not only the pain in your life but also the joy. It was important to find the balance.”
It was hard to find someone to play Andrew. Crialese saw almost 5,000 kids for the role, and he finally met Giuliani in a motorcycle race competition.
Crialese laments all the labels that society feels compelled to put on people.
“Today we can expand, and finally [evolve],” he said. “We don’t need to put all these names on people. We just need to be. You can explain to a kid what a woman or a man is, but sometimes it is difficult to explain what a human being is like. I feel we have lost track of what our common ground is. When kids see borders, they feel trapped. They want to challenge them.”
In the new and very funny Netflix comedy special, “Something Special,” Hannah Gadsby returns to the stage, this time focusing on their 2021 marriage to producer Jenney Shamash. It’s something of a departure from their last two specials.
“I wanted to challenge myself,” Gadsby told Georgia Voice. “It’s not easy to do a positive comedy show. People really don’t enjoy other people being happy. I felt really creatively challenged, but it’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to engage with those feelings right now.”
New material for Gadsby always evolves across touring. They start building it on small stages. This show, ironically, started and ended in the same room as the acclaimed “Nanette” and came together in a few weeks.
Gadsby is aware of how many feel inspiration through their work.
“It’s hard for me to understand how I inspire people,” they said. “I am told [that I do], and I believe it, but the parasocial relationship — I am used to being on the other side of it. It’s a strange position to be in. I try to be responsible with that. I wish everyone well. I feel very nervous about it. I hope I am doing more good than bad — that is a goal.”
Their life changed after the success of 2018’s “Nanette,” which won an Emmy and a Peabody Award.
“I don’t even recognize my life anymore,” Gadsby said. “One of the perks is that I am able to take charge of my career a little bit more. I am able to choose what I do and have a bit more creative control. There are stresses involved, but ultimately I feel like I am on a win at the moment.”
“L’immensita” opens in Atlanta May 29
“Something Special” is now airing on Netflix