Great films rarely wrap up neatly. The audience is left to ponder what happens next. We at The Envelope couldn't help but wonder if the actors do such pondering as well. They spend so much time figuring out their characters' back stories, how much thought do they give to the after-story? We put the question to a number of actors in some of the season's most compelling films. Warning: Many, many (oh, so many) spoilers lie ahead.
Sally Hawkins: Ginger
Story: Jasmine (Cate Blanchett), a fallen socialite with a tenuous grip on sanity, lands at her working-class sister Ginger's home and thoroughly upends her life.
Film ending: As Ginger reunites with the hot-headed boyfriend that Jasmine talked her into dumping, Jasmine moves out, pretending she has somewhere to go.
Hawkins: "When I think about the life beyond the film, and where Ginger goes and where Jasmine goes, it's heartbreaking. I think they don't see each other again. Ginger will always return to this moment, I think, when Jasmine walked out of her life, and she didn't run after her or didn't see, didn't know what to do. And yet Ginger was in her own bubble of giddiness and Champagne, being back with a man who loves her, even though he has no way of dealing with his faults and his bubbling volcano of violence. It's so delicate."
Chiwetel Ejiofor: Solomon Northup
"12 Years a Slave"
Story: The true story follows Northup, a free black man who is kidnapped and sold into slavery in the pre-Civil War South, fighting to retain his life and his soul as he endures unimaginable torment.
Film ending: Finally able to get word to his friends and family, he is rescued and returns home. He is overwhelmed to see his family and meet his baby grandchild.
Ejiofor: "We do know some of the stuff that happened to him — how he joined the abolitionist movement and put on productions of his book. But then he sort of disappeared. I was hopeful projecting the state of his psychology, though, that he was able to continue his life."
Oscar Isaac: Llewyn Davis
"Inside Llewyn Davis"
Story: A talented, troubled singer-songwriter consistently sabotages his success in the folk scene of 1961 Greenwich Village.
Film ending: Llewyn gets into a surreal loop of trouble for shooting his mouth off as we hear the first moments of a Bob Dylan performance, which will change the folk world forever.
Isaac: "I like to think he went on to teach guitar and find a way to do what he loves. You're seeing someone that is never going to stop doing what's he doing."
Dermot Mulroney: Steve Huberbrecht
"August: Osage County"
Story: A wildly dysfunctional family gathers for the funeral of the clan's father. Steve, a smarmy entrepreneur, is engaged to Karen Weston (Juliette Lewis), one of the family's daughters.
Film ending: Steve's ending comes before the film's finale. He is caught messing around with Jean (Abigail Breslin), Karen's teenage niece. Distraught, Karen chooses to believe Steve over the evidence and drives back with him to Florida.
Mulroney: "On the ride home from Oklahoma to Florida, Karen would have to listen to Steve gaslighting her — deflecting his actions with the 14-year-old while Karen rants about how crazy her family is. About halfway home they stop at a Waffle House and he blatantly flirts with the young waitress. They laugh it off as if the girl was coming on to him. By the time they get back to Sarasota, Karen has decided she will continue to look the other way with Steve. She will keep up the bravado that has always masked her pain. She will endure this relationship and persevere, deciding that a compromised life — even with someone like Steve — is better than a life alone. While Steve continues to keep an eye on his under-the-radar government contracts, he's considering testing the waters as an investor in a new combo tanning/nail salon business on Florida's Gulf Coast."
Julie Delpy: Céline
Story: This is the third in a series of movies, after "Before Sunrise" and "Before Sunset," that follows Céline and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) through their romance, reunion and now, their relationship. Nine years in, the daily struggles and disagreements tear at their bonds. The actors wrote the film, as the others, with director Richard Linklater.
Film ending: After a doozy of a fight that threatens to end everything, Céline walks out. Jesse finds her sitting at a table by the water. Gently attempting to reconnect, he reads a sweet, silly letter he says was written by her 80-year-old self to her younger incarnation, which mentions that this very night she will have had the best sex of her life. The faux letter helps get them on the same page again, for now anyway.
Delpy: "We usually know what happens in the next two scenes after that, after the ending. Then we try to let it sit for a few years before we decide what they did next. I'm an optimist, so they probably have sex, which is the most optimistic thing you can hope for in life. I think that's what happens in the next few hours, they do make up for a while, but I think their issues are not resolved entirely with just a night of sex. Their issues are a little bigger than that. [Asked if it's the best sex of Céline's life, as Jesse advertised, Delpy laughs.] Well, he's going to have to work hard there. He's going to do his best. Let's say that it's his best performance of his life."
Will Forte: David Grant
June Squibb: Kate Grant
Story: Woody Grant (Bruce Dern), a taciturn man who's begun to exhibit signs of dementia, believes a sweepstakes letter that claims he's won a million dollars and insists on picking up his winnings in person. His wife thinks he's a fool, but his sad-sack son, David, agrees to take him on a road trip to the sweepstakes office, stopping at Woody's battered old hometown on the way.
Film ending: After Woody finally sees that the sweepstakes was a scam, David sweetly gives him what he wants most: the chance to drive a new(ish) truck past the people of his town who belittled him. Through it all, Kate, his sharp-tongued wife, has shown only glimpses of her love for him.
Squibb: "I don't think she'll change much. It's not like she'll say, 'Oh, my mouth is too big.' She'll never do that. She's just simply unfiltered. I don't think she'll do much more than what she's doing, which is taking care of him and trying to get those two boys to keep on the straight and narrow path."
Forte: "I don't want to give away any spoilers because 'Nebraska 2' is already in pre-production. The one thing I can tell you without giving too much away: same cast, way less clothing."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times