Five Favorite Films

Five Favorite Films with Michelle Monaghan

The star of Duncan Jones' sci-fi thriller Source Code drops by for a chat about her most-loved movies.

by | March 31, 2011 | Comments

In director Duncan Jones’ ( Moon) new time-twisting sci-fi thriller Source Code, Jake Gyllenhaal plays a soldier sent into a space of eight minutes aboard a train bound for disaster; a temporal pocket he must inhabit over and over until he unravels either the identity of a bomber — or his own. Fortunately he gets to relive those same eight minutes with his delightful co-star Michelle Monaghan, who plays a passenger on the train in possession of a possible key to Jake’s future. Or past. No, wait, is it the future? Yep, it’s one of those cyclical narratives that revels in its sometimes confounding paradoxes. For Monaghan, who Jones cast having liked her in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, it meant playing the same scene, and character, on endless loop; adjusting her performance ever so slightly in reaction to the changing trajectory of Gyllenhaal’s time-tripper. We caught up with the actress, most recently seen in Due Date and Somewhere and soon to star in Marc Forster’s Machine Gun Preacher, and asked her to name her Five Favorite Films. “That’s really hard,” Monaghan laughs, “but I’m sure everybody tells you how hard it is.” Indeed.


A Woman Under the Influence (1974, 94% Tomatometer)

My favorite — my number one favorite, actually — is A Woman Under the Influence. [Gena Rowlands] is just… I respect and admire her so much as an actress. I just think that performance is so brave and extraordinary. It was one of those things that, as a woman, as an actress, I kind of appreciate, you know. And also, that film is kind of a really, truly independent film. I think Cassavetes financed it, I think Peter Falk put money into it; kind of no one really believed in it. I was in a film a couple of years ago that a studio would never touch, a movie called Trucker, which was a great opportunity for me; but those sort of movies need to be independently financed.

Fargo (1996, 94% Tomatometer)


I really like Fargo a lot. It has everything. I love the Coen brothers. I love Frances McDormand, I think she’s just an extraordinary actress. She’s so funny in that movie, as Marge. I’m from the Midwest, I’m from Iowa; so obviously that accent’s really heightened, but it’s something that I hear every time I go home. It’s something that feels like very much where I grew up; that backdrop is exactly where I grew up. It’s definitely exaggerated but yeah, there’s definitely that, “Oh, oh my gosh” where I come from. And when I go home and after I have a couple of beers you’d probably hear it come out: “You betcha!” [laughs]

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989, 62% Tomatometer)


I love Christmas Vacation, with Chevy Chase, and Randy Quaid as well. It’s so funny. Juliette Lewis is in there, too — who I think is genius, by the way, in everything that she’s in. That movie, to me, is so funny that every time it plays at Christmas time I inevitably have to watch it. I mean, every scene in that movie is so funny — when that squirrel lands on the toupee of the grandpa; the kid when he gets on the damn saucer and he flies down the hill, I mean, I just think that’s a really cheesy scene. And I love Chevy Chase. Any Chevy Chase. He’s just got a really funny quality about him, and it’s really subtle — he’s got a little twinkle in his eye, he’s really sort of mischievous. I like him. Just the way he carries himself — he’s really animated without being physical.

Animal Kingdom (2010, 97% Tomatometer)


This movie is still my favorite movie of last year, and I think I have to name it because I just thought it was an extraordinary film and I still think about it a lot. I saw it in the theater and it really hit me like a ton of bricks. I think he’s a really extraordinary director, David Michôd. Ben Mendelsohn and Jackie Weaver — every single performance in that I was so impressed with, but in particular just the direction. That’s a director that I appreciate the sense that he allows his actors to just act and have these really quiet moments, and he really just created this world — the atmosphere of that movie was amazing. For a first film, too. The way that he was able to create a level of tension with actors not really saying much or doing much, it was just what he did with the camera. There are not a lot of films where you can just appreciate the camerawork and what a significant aspect of the whole film it is. It was perfectly curated.

Hands on a Hard Body (1998, 84% Tomatometer)


I really like documentaries a lot; maybe more than film. I love this documentary called Hands on a Hard Body. It was made in the 1990s, I think. It’s about this annual event that takes place in Texas — it’s kind of like an endurance test of how long you can keep your hand on a truck. And if you are the last man standing, you get the truck. Literally, you just stand, day and night with your hand on a truck, and there’s like 15 or 20 people all standing there. And it’s such a well-done documentary. They feature each person before the program starts; the director comes in and he asks them questions like, “Why do you want to do this? Why do you want your truck?” and it’s just a real, unique look into people’s lives. It’s really powerful and it’s really moving and it’s kind of funny and odd and bizarre. It goes on for, I think, over 72 hours, and it’s really sad as you see this people dropping out. It says a lot about human endurance.


Source Code is in theaters this week.

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