March 5, 1998
Like the priest in her latest movie, directorLesli Linka Glatter is finding her own faith.
Set in aristocratic 1930s Boston, "TheProposition" stars William Hurt and Madeleine Stowe as Arthur andEleanor Barrett, an infertile couple who go to extreme measures toconceive. They employ the services of Neil Patrick Harris (yes,"Doogie Howser" himself), who falls in love with Eleanor. Thesituation leads to murder as the Barretts try to avoid a humiliatingscandal, and Eleanor seeks comfort in the arms of Father McKinnon(Kenneth Branagh), a young priest new to the local parish.
Realizing the potential controversy in her subjectmatter, Glatter employed two Catholic advisers during filming. "Ilearned that Catholicism is strict, rigid, but also has anunderstanding of human frailty," she says. In the film, McKinnon "isin [the priesthood] for all the wrong reasons, but he ends up withhis faith."
Glatter, whohas Jewish ancestry on both sides of her family, was raised with asense of spirit rather than any specific religion. "I don't know howto untangle my heritage," she says. "I was raised with the idea thateverybody is looking for the same thing, but there are differentpaths of getting there."
Glatter first decided to make movies while workingas a modern dance choreographer in Tokyo, where she met a man in his80s who told her six different stories. "I felt an obligation to passthem along," she says.
She returned to the States and enrolled in the AFIDirecting Workshop for Women, where she turned her obligation into anAcademy Award-nominated short film. "I did everything you're notsupposed to do. Three-quarters of it was in Japanese. It was really afluke of nature."
Her work led to an apprenticeship on StevenSpielberg's "Amazing Stories" series, for which she directed threeepisodes. Other television work followed: three movies for HBO, ahandful of "Twin Peaks" episodes, as well as "NYPD Blue" and "ER."(She is directing the upcoming season finale of that series.) Herfeature debut came with "Now and Then," an all-female coming-of-agecomedy with Demi Moore, Melanie Griffith and Rosie O'Donnell.
"The Proposition" was in development for more thanfour years before Glatter came on board. She was attracted to theperiod piece for its romantic appeal and the contemporary issues shethinks the material raises. "Humans think they have so much control,but, in reality, have so little. Women spend half of their livestrying to get pregnant.... It's not to happen in a test tube in adoctor's office," the mother of a 6-year-old son says.
Glatter is hopeful that there will be an audiencefor her film, and that the subject matter won't prove toocontroversial. She considers last week's première a success."When people stay late at the party, that's always a good sign," shesays.
Polygram, the film's distributor, may be lesssure, opening "The Proposition" in New York and Los Angeles today, aswell as testing the film in two secondary markets. Depending on itssuccess, the film will open nationally later this spring. "It's justone person's opinion," she says of reviews. "You can't take every badreview to heart. You can't read any of it. Either they really connectto it, or they don't."
As for the public, Glatter has gotten littlefeedback thus far. "The subject matter is unique. I don't know ifit's everyone's cup of tea.... It certainly leaves a lot open fordiscussion."
Like Father McKinnon, Glatter believes one needsto find faith in order to find material. "A big barometer to whetheror not I'm going to do a project is if I'm not going to be home topick up my son at school, then it better be worth it.," shesays.
"Do something you're passionate about and be verytenacious."
Top, Father McKinnon (Kenneth Branagh) providescomfort to Eleanor Barrett (Madeleine Stowe), as her husband becomessuspicious in "The Proposition," directed by Lesli Linka Glatter(above).