Elizabeth Marvel Talks About Her Pivotal Scene in ‘The Meyerowitz Stories’

Elizabeth Marvel in Director Noah Baumbach's
Atsushi Nishijima / Netflix

In “The Meyerowitz Stories,” Elizabeth Marvel plays Jean Meyerowitz, the lone female in a trio of siblings — Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller play her brothers — whose father, Harold (Dustin Hoffman), a disgruntled, ailing New York-based artist, is coming to terms with his mortality. In one of the film’s most powerful scenes, which takes place in the woods outside the hospital in upstate New York where Harold is lingering between life and death, Marvel reveals to her brothers that she was molested as a teenager by Paul (Jerry Matz) one of her father’s old friends, whom she runs into while he’s visiting Harold on his sick bed.

Marvel: “It is such a very gender-centric scene. It’s funny, you know, I was walking my dogs and one of my neighbors stopped me who had just seen the movie, and asked, ‘Oh my God, did you guys just film that? Was that in reaction to the Harvey Weinstein situation?’ I was like ‘No, no, no, no. No, no, no.’ But, you know, the Harvey Weinstein situation is more in the headlines but [sexual assault] is a phenomenon that is as common as global warming right now.

Noah is such an amazing artist and his portrayal of women in film is so extraordinary and sensitive and smart. And I love how he presents Jean’s story. And I loved how Noah and I found that scene because it is a moment in which she’s triggered by seeing Paul in the hospital. I loved how Noah and I found how to play it out, in the woods, in an almost sort of Bergman-like setting. It felt very Bergman-like to me while we were filming it. It’s a very quiet story, it’s a very personal story. But you know the pain to me of that story is how easily dismissed it is. You know, how Harold asks, ‘Did he touch you?’ And when she says ‘no,’ then it’s like, ‘go back to your camp and I’m gonna play this tennis game, because otherwise it’s just so inconvenient.’

And that’s the story we hear so often, that these experiences, they’re inconvenient.

Yes, it’s Jean’s story, it’s how it lives in her memory. But it’s also not just about that. The thing that I think Noah gets so right and so wonderful is that Jean tells her story to her brothers and then you see their reaction to it. Then you see what they do with this emotional truth that this very enigmatic, private person has shared with them. When she finishes telling it they all hug each other in the woods, but then they go and destroy this old sick man’s car. That’s how they process it. And how Jean processes it is, you know, why would you do that? He’s an old sick man! Destroying all the cars in the parking lot wouldn’t un-fuck me up. Don’t you understand? That’s not what you do. That’s not what helps.

But that’s what’s so, so beautiful about how Noah has written that scene, and how it’s played. They’re so psyched, they’re so pumped, they’re high-fiving and they’ve done this thing. They’ve fixed it, you know? In their minds. And it’s so interesting because a lot of people have stopped me, and that is the thing that they want to talk about. They want to talk about that scene. Noah struck a chord of the moment. Gender-wise, control-wise, family-wise, it’s a scene that is having a real ripple effect with people that are seeing it.”