BERLIN?Demi Moore turns down the glamour to play a frustrated mother caring for her ailing father in "Happy Tears", which joined the race for the coveted Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival on Wednesday.
Directed by Mitchell Lichtenstein, "Happy Tears" stars Moore and Parker Posey as rival sisters who return home from California to the dreary town where their father (Rip Torn) lives with a prostitute girlfriend (Ellen Barkin).
Moore and Posey both play against type, with Moore's character, an environmental activist, roaming around in baggy trousers and peasant blouses. Posey, a vaguely delusional lost soul married to a wealthy artist's son, dons a pair of $2,600 designer boots throughout the movie.
After a largely well-received press screening, Moore told reporters it was refreshing to star in a small, ambitious independent movie after the 1990s blockbusters such as "Ghost" and "Indecent Proposal" that made her a star.
"What attracts you is the combination of who you get to work with and how interesting the material is," she said of how she chooses her roles now.
"I found 'Happy Tears' to be extremely charming in this outside-of-the-box perspective of what we might consider normal."
Moore, 46, credited her husband Ashton Kutcher, who is 15 years her junior, with encouraging her to break outside her comfort zone.
"His incredible love and support gives me greater courage to take more risks," she said.
The Berlin festival has featured a number of on-screen romances between older women and younger men including "The Reader" starring Kate Winslet as a 30-something German with a teenage lover and "The Private Lives of Pippa Lee" with Robin Wright Penn and Keanu Reeves.
"Happy Tears" required Moore and Posey to do the dirty work of caring for their irascible, senile father including a graphic scene in which they must contend with his incontinence.
"I had the foresight to say I thought my character should be wearing the yellow plastic gloves," Moore said with a laugh. "The material was chocolate pudding and peanut butter."
"Rip was an extremely good sport in allowing me to continually apply the pudding and the peanut butter."
The film's director is the son of the pop artist Roy Lichtenstein and a successful television actor who scored at a hit at the Sundance film festival in 2007 with "Teeth" about a teenager with toothed sex organs.
He said he had cast Moore to see her as an actress again instead of a glamour queen.
"I've always loved Demi's work. I was just excited about the idea of her playing kind of a normal person," said Lichtenstein, who named the movie after one of his father's paintings.
"It was not a high-glamour part. I just wanted to see Demi do that again and luckily she obviously seemed ready to do it. I think she's lovely and wonderful in it."
Also in competition Wednesday for the festival's Golden Bear, to be awarded Saturday, was a revenge drama set in the Carpathians, "Katalin Varga" by British-Hungarian director Peter Strickland about a woman hunting the men who raped her a decade before.
Also in the festival's main showcase but out of competition was the hip-hop biopic "Notorious" about the bling life and bloody death of rapper Biggy Smalls.