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Premieres & Events

Snow Flurries for Sigourney Weaver

Sigourney Weaver following Tuesday's theatrical premiere of Snow Cake (Photo: Christopher Campbell)

By Christopher Campbell

Sigourney Weaver dropped by IFC Center Tuesday night for a special advance screening of Snow Cake, a film that was shot exactly two years ago, played at Tribeca exactly one year ago and finally opens for a limited engagement this Friday. I say "finally" because it is a film that deserves to be seen immediately, if nothing else for Weaver's exceptional performance as an autistic woman who loses her daughter to an automobile accident.

The performance is most noteworthy for not depicting the woman as an imitable caricature, as is often the case with autistic characters in mainstream films. And the fact that Weaver does not play the role extravagantly or over the top is apparently earning her a lot of cred among those more familiar with the disorder. "Everyone that I talked to thinks Rain Man is great," Weaver said during a post-screening Q&A of the most well-known autism movie, "but I think there is some frustration with having everyone go, 'Oh, like Rain Man.' You know, that gets tired after ten or fifteen years."

That isn't to say there's anything particularly wrong with Dustin Hoffman's Oscar- winning performance, but as an introduction to the subject of autism to much of America it set forth a general association for a disorder that cannot be defined by one singular example. Even Weaver was apparently in the dark in terms of autism's wide spectrum.

"When Alan Rickman sent me the script, which was a change from Galaxy Quest, the film we had done before, I thought I knew a little about autism," she told the audience, which included a large number of autistic attendees, "But in fact I realized as soon as I started the research that I knew nothing, because every single person on the spectrum is unique."

Fortunately for the film and for its audiences, Weaver was able to spend a great deal of time becoming more acquainted with the disorder and developing a more complex and believable character based on that acquaintance. "I was lucky because the film kept being postponed," she said. "I was actually doing a play, Mrs. Farnsworth, downtown and trying to do research on the side. And luckily we were supposed to shoot in the winter but that got postponed. Each month it would get postponed and I really needed all that time. In the end it was around nine or ten months probably."

Snow Cake doesn't pretend to be about autism nor does it attempt to educate its viewers about the disorder, but hopefully Weaver's performance will inspire people to do their own research. Unlike Rain Man, which unintentionally became sort of the first and final word on the subject for a long time, Snow Cake may serve as an invitation to learn more.

Posted at April 25, 2007 10:24 AM

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