In 2008, Viola Davis won an Academy Award for appearing in a single scene of the movie Doubt. Sometimes, a scene — or, in the case of the upcoming movie All These Small Moments, a "moment" — is the defining point of an entire film.
Such is the case in the film All These Small Moments, when Lindsay, played by a refreshingly authentic Harley Quinn Smith, steals a movie that isn't even primarily about her. In the film, teenager Howie (Brendan Mayer) retreats to a fantasy romance with an older woman (Jemima Kirke) while his parents (Molly Ringwald and Brian d'Arcy James) figure out their crumbling marriage. Meanwhile, Lindsay nurses her crush on Howie on the sidelines.
Then, she speaks. In the shattering monologue, Lindsay reveals the traumatic event in her past that led to a cavalcade of teenage disasters: vicious rumors, bullying, and long-lasting misconceptions (she's still battling a rumor about her itchy skin). Howie, to his credit, sits and listens. And so should we — because this scene is Harley Quinn Smith's breakout moment.
The only child of director Kevin Smith, Harley Quinn grew up ensconced among the Hollywood elite and her father’s cinematic “View Askewniverse.” Until now, she's exclusively appeared in her father's movies, like Yoga Hosers and small appearances in Clerks II and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. With All These Small Moments, out in theaters on January 19, Smith takes her first steps towards the rest of her life. We spoke to Smith on her own high school hardships, starting out Hollywood in the age of #MeToo, and being starstruck by Molly Ringwald.
Refinery29: Molly Ringwald is the queen of a certain era of high school films. What was it like working with her on this high school movie?
Harley Quinn Smith: "I met her and lost my mind — though I tried to keep it very cool. She is one of my heroes. One of the coolest women to walk this earth. When she saw the film, she had told me that I reminded her of her youngest self, which then sent me into a spiral of freaking the hell out. It’s truly the best compliment I’ve ever received in this lifetime. The characters that Molly played are such honest portrayals of what it's like to be in high school. If I did even slightly the same, then I would feel very good about myself."
Why did you want to be a part of this movie?
"I really chased after this film. I felt like playing Lindsay was a beautiful opportunity to be able to show audiences what it’s really like to be in high school with anxiety. Personally, I didn't have a great time in high school. I was drawn to this part because it was way more accurate to my experience than I have seen in a lot of film and TV. It's important to show all sides of the spectrum of growing up, so that if young people are not having a good time in school they can say, 'Okay, I’m not alone, I’m seeing this person get through it.' I don’t feel like that’s represented enough, aside from movies like Eighth Grade."
You graduated from high school recently. Was it challenging to put yourself back in that headspace, and being back in a place you didn't like?
"I got this film while I was in my senior year of high school. It was so timely for what I was actually living through in school. The movie was such a beautiful escape. I was approaching graduation and felt like this was the closure that I needed to leave high school and enter the real world. It was very cathartic."
I loved Lindsay’s top knot. She really looked like a high schooler in the year 2019. Did you have any influence over her style?
"The top knot was something from the get-go. This was going to be her thing. I was so down for it — that was me the majority of school, not wanting to do my hair or try to look cute. Some of her look came from being past caring what people thought of what she looked like. She's dealt with so much scrutiny from people from her school and probably was very concerned about what people thought of her for a long time. I think that her style represents being over this hurdle of caring so much what people think about her. Really just being herself. Not giving a fuck."
She has one of the most powerful scenes in the movie, when she opens up to Howie about her past trauma. What was filming that scene like?
"The whole day, I was kind of in my own space, just preparing to do it. I gave people a heads up: 'If I’m moody and if I'm sitting alone in a corner, it’s because of my monologue.' We did it a bunch of times, progressively getting more emotional as it went on. Melissa [director Melissa B. Miller] envisioned the monologue pretty straightforward, not emotional, as Lindsay had already gotten past it and didn't feel that emotional about it anymore. But me, being a very sensitive person, viewed it the exact opposite and thought she’d be a huge crying mess. We met in the middle in the end."
We’re living in a time when people have been much more forthcoming with their own experiences with sexual harassment and assault. Why is it important for a movie — especially one about young people — to address this topic?
"It’s extremely important. We're living in a time when brave women and men are coming forward so that future generations won’t have any stories to tell. In order for that to happen, people do have to come forward and say what happened to them. I admire everyone involved in the #MeToo movement so much and respect them more than anything."