Mary Louise Wilson has been working in the industry for nearly five decades and has a storied TV, film, and stage resume—and a seriously biting, self-deprecating wit—to prove it. The veteran actress’ performances have ranged from a Tony Award-winning stint as Edith Bouvier Beale in Grey Gardens to a Drama Desk Award-winning role as Diana Vreeland in Full Gallop to a guest part as Louis C.K.’s late-in-life-lesbian mom on Louie to a “very rich elderly woman who wears very short skirts” on Amazon’s new series Mozart In The Jungle.
Wilson’s also a writer—she has a forthcoming autobiography titled My First Hundred Years In Show Business—and, these days, a sharp, no-nonsense, Elaine-Stritch-esque acting teacher with propensities for wicked vulgarity and brutal honesty that could not possibly be more delightful. Both are on display in the new trailer for She’s The Best Thing In It, an upcoming documentary from Oscar-nominated writer/director Ron Nyswaner (Philadelphia, The Painted Veil, Ray Donovan) that follows the 79-year-old actress as she returns to her hometown of New Orleans to impart her acting skills to the “YouTube generation, smashing their red-carpet illusions and challenging them to bring emotional honesty to their acting.”
That whole “red-carpet illusions” thing is particularly necessary—one student in the trailer says he thinks acting would be a “very, very good place to make a lucrative income”; another believes an acting career isn’t “a matter of winning the lottery,” but “what’s going to happen.” Oy.
The trail of the tape
Title: She’s The Best Thing In It
Director: Ron Nyswaner
Cast: Mary Louise Wilson, Frances McDormand, Melissa Leo, Tyne Daly, Valerie Harper
Release date: March 16 at SXSW; theatrical release TBD
The entire trailer in one line of dialogue: “You know, when you get to be the age I am, you’ve gotta get buckets of Botox or you’re never gonna get on TV or film. Everything’s gotta be lifted. So fuck ’em.”
The entire trailer in one screengrab:
See? Delightful. But it looks like beneath the comedy, there are some serious threads here, too, relating to Hollywood’s ageism and industry-ingrained misogyny (both topics that I never talk about and don’t care about at all, nope), Wilson’s misgivings about her own career and early family life, and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. According to the official synopsis, She’s The Best Thing In It begins as a “study of a profession” and turns into a “meditation of loss, grief, growing older, and that elusive thing known as stardom.”
The doc also features interviews with Frances McDormand, Melissa Melo, Tyne Daly, Estelle Parsons, Charlotte Rae, Valerie Harper, and Doug Wright, discussing “what it means to be a character actor, whether acting can be taught, what constitutes ‘talent,’ and whether the profession is harder for women.” You had me at “so fuck ’em,” Wilson.