Whatever you normally do, or are doing right now, Natalie Morales probably wants to do something else.
“I’ve always liked to do the thing that people don’t do,” she says. She says she’s not exactly contrarian, but she likes the road less traveled. In bars, for example, she makes a point of sitting with her head up, people-watching, while everyone around her has their noses in their phones. People think it’s strange, but she likes the practice.
“In high school,” says Morales, “I was like, ‘Hey, why do people move their hands when they walk? You don’t need to do that.’ So, I tried to teach myself to not move my arms when I walked, and I looked real weird. So, now I move them again. But I tried it. I try things that other people don’t do.”
The actress-turned-director admires that same sense of surprise in films, whether it comes from performers or directors. That helped shape her list of “More Than Meets The Eye” films.
In “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” starring Michael Caine, Steve Martin, and Glenne Headly, she admires all three lead performances, citing both Martin and Caine for their unpredictability. “I love (Caine) when he does comedy. It’s not this full body, all-over-the-place insanity. It’s this very controlled way of looking at you and saying a line to you in a way that you didn’t expect to hear it.”
Morales makes a point of learning from directors she watches. In “Amélie,” she admires the work of director Jean-Pierre Jeunet. “A lot of directors have been inspired by that movie and for good reason. The fast editing and the fast cuts are a way to create a pace for the movie and a way to create a pace for the character.”
Morales sees a life lesson in the character Amélie: “You can seem very wonder-filled and open to the world and still be sort of closed-off to emotions and feelings and trusting other people,” observes Morales. “I think that’s the hardest thing to do as a person because we all get beaten down by the world every day. But I think it’s important to maintain that wonder with life and still open yourself up to people as well.”
Morales finds “Secretary” unexpected in a different way, not least because the topic of sadomasochistic relationships is so rarely explored in mainstream dramas. “That’s when I think movies and television are at their best, when they make you relate to things that you have no idea about, that you’re not close to at all. So, (‘Secretary’) brings you in to a world that you didn’t know, which eventually brings us all together.”
She credits Maggie Gyllenhaal with a sensitive performance. “That’s a tough job to introduce a lot of people to sadomasochism and why some people think it’s good, and why some people enjoy it, and why it is good for some people.”
“And she sells this person in such a believable way,” she continues. “I think she’s just so bright and beautiful in this film in a way that I haven’t ever really seen anybody else capture again.”
To watch Morales’ “More Than Meets The Eye” films – “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” “Amélie,” and “Secretary”* – as well as other movies like these, start your Tribeca Shortlist free, seven-day trial here.
*Titles subject to availability