It is easy to look at Laura Dern—fit from yoga and swimming, poised and insightful—and see the sweet and upbeat side of Enlightened’s Amy Jellicoe. Dern has just come from dropping off Ellery and Jaya, her son and daughter with musician Ben Harper, at school. She and Harper are separated and, she says, trying to work out what’s best for them and the kids. “Having egregious divorces—where you just hate each other—is really the easy way out,” she says.
Does she have Amy’s fury under all of this well-balanced sweetness? Ask what makes her angry and her reply is what you might expect from an enlightened Hollywood liberal: Speaking of Troy Davis, who was put to death September 21, she says, “I found it terrifying that someone was executed in Georgia, and we weren’t totally sure he did it. I feel like I’m in the Colosseum in Rome. That makes me angry, primarily as a parent. All these things you try to teach kids, like peace and compassion, are getting gray and blurred. I’m pretty pissed off that I have to teach myself, let alone my children, that.”
Which is something of the rage Amy Jellicoe feels in Enlightened. And why Laura Dern understands how to bring her so weirdly and vividly to life: “I love playing people who, just when you think something is their greatest trait, you realize it’s clearly the thing that will take them down.”