Anna Paquin in real life is a mom of 16-month-old twins and, of course, a successful movie and TV star who lived the Hollywood dream by marrying her leading man. Her husband, 44-year-old English actor Stephen Moyer, co-stars with Paquin, 31, on the long-running HBO supernatural soap-opera True Blood.
But in the new Anna Paquin movie, the first produced by the husband-and-wife team through their jointly-owned production company Casm Films, she portrays a struggling single mom who turns to stripping and smuggling marijuana to support her two daughters.
The couple have been on the publicity rounds to plug the movie, Free Ride, which opens today in New York and Los Angeles, as well as on video-on-demand outlets. And Moyer says that his wife's maternal instincts don't stop where the fantasy world of a movie set begins.
"Ava (Acres), who plays [Paquin's] youngest daughter [Shell], she would sort of come over and just be next to Anna," Moyer, who is credited as executive producer on the new film, told ABC News. "She becomes incredibly mothering of kids when they are on set."
Anna Paquin is listed as producer in the film's credits, as well as its lead actress. She countered her husband with a compliment, sort of, about his own parental talents.
"All the jokes about the dads and the diapers, and them being useless, he's not!" Anna Paquin said of her husband, who has two children from a previous relationship, in the ABC interview.
"I like poo," Moyer confirmed.
Set in the late 1970s, Free Ride is based on the childhood experiences of the movie's own director, Shana Betz, who also penned the screenplay.
"Christina is unconventionally just trying to be a good mother," Anna Paquin explained to CBS News, discussing the behavior of Betz's mother as portrayed in the film by Paquin herself. "It might not look the same as everybody else's childhood, but she's this incredible survivor."
The film opens to mixed reviews. The Los Angeles Times opined that the new Anna Paquin movie "feels choppy, familiar and, despite the script's heavily stacked deck — and a few harrowing episodes — lacks sufficient momentum."
Times critic Gary Goldstein added, however, that Anna Paquin is "quite good" in the part of Christina.
The New York Daily News gave the film a two-star rating out of a maximum of five stars, contending that though the film is based on her own life, Betz is "unable to do the story justice as either a writer or director."
The paper also criticized Anna Paquin's performance, saying, "It's hard to believe her passive character is either desperate or wild enough to make the choices she does."
But New York Times critic Stephen Holden enjoyed the film, and lauded Anna Paquin for a performance that "balances her character's two sides: the caring mother and the pragmatic working-class survivor."