|Education||New Plymouth Girls' High School|
Victoria University of Wellington
(m. 2007; div. 2014)
Melanie Jayne Lynskey (born 16 May 1977) is a New Zealand actress. She is known for playing quirky, soft-spoken but headstrong characters, and works predominantly in independent films. Her accolades include a New Zealand Film Award, a Hollywood Film Award and a Sundance Special Jury Award, as well as Critics' Choice Award, Gotham Award, and Golden Nymph Award nominations.
Lynskey made her film debut starring as a teenage murderess in Heavenly Creatures (1994). After moving to the United States, she built a career playing supporting parts in a variety of big-budget and small-scale features, such as Ever After (1998), Detroit Rock City, But I'm a Cheerleader (both 1999), Coyote Ugly (2000), Abandon, Sweet Home Alabama (both 2002), Shattered Glass (2003), Flags of Our Fathers (2006), Away We Go; Up in the Air; The Informant!; Leaves of Grass (all 2009), Win Win (2011), Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, The Perks of Being a Wallflower (both 2012), They Came Together (2014), and Don't Look Up (2021).
Lynskey received critical praise for her performance in Hello I Must Be Going (2012), which proved to be a turning point in her career. Subsequent lead roles in Happy Christmas; We'll Never Have Paris; Goodbye to All That (all 2014), The Intervention; Rainbow Time; Little Boxes (all 2016), I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore, And Then I Go (both 2017), Sadie (2018) and Lady of the Manor (2021) have established her as a prominent figure in the American independent film community.
Outside of film, Lynskey achieved fame with her portrayal of Rose on the CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men (2003–15). From 2015 to 2016, she starred as Michelle Pierson on the HBO series Togetherness, for which she received a nomination for the Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Supporting Actress. She provided the voices of Beatrice for Cartoon Network's Over the Garden Wall (2014) and Megan for Disney XD's Future-Worm! (2016–18). She also starred as Molly Strand on the first season of Hulu's Castle Rock (2018), and played Rosemary Thomson in the FX miniseries Mrs. America (2020). Lynskey is married to American actor Jason Ritter, with whom she has a daughter.
Lynskey was born in New Plymouth, New Zealand, to Kay Lynskey, a former nurse, and Tim Lynskey, an orthopedic surgeon. She is the oldest of five children, and has three brothers and one sister. Her surname is Irish.
During her childhood, Lynskey's family moved to England for one year before returning to New Zealand. She attended New Plymouth Girls' High School, where she was involved in the drama department and school plays. After high school, Lynskey studied at Victoria University of Wellington.
1994–2002: Film debut and early work
Lynskey made her professional acting debut at age 16, starring in Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures, a psychological drama based on the Parker–Hulme murder case. Lynskey played Pauline Parker, a teenager who carries out a brutal crime with the assistance of her best friend (played by Kate Winslet). She auditioned for the role when a casting director visited her high school; prior to this, 500 girls had been considered for the part of Pauline, but "none were right". The film's co-writer (Fran Walsh) admired Lynskey's "quiet intensity", and said, "we knew immediately that she was right for the role". Heavenly Creatures was met with critical acclaim upon its release in 1994. Roger Ebert praised Jackson for casting "the right two actresses", noting that "there is a way Lynskey has of looking up from beneath glowering eyebrows that lets you know her insides are churning". Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly described Lynskey as "extraordinary", while Richard Corliss stated in his review for Time:
The film's serendipitous stroke was to find Winslet and, especially, Lynskey, a first-time actress. They are perfect, fearless in embodying teenage hysteria.
Heavenly Creatures is recognized as a landmark in New Zealand cinema. It was nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the 67th Academy Awards, while Lynskey was named Best Actress at the 1995 New Zealand Film Awards. She regards working with Jackson and Winslet as an important learning experience. During the making of the film she grew particularly close to Winslet, who later said, "Mel is like the left side of my body. [We] had the exact relationship in terms of communication and love that Pauline and Juliet had. From the minute we saw each other".
Following a two-year gap—during which she attended university, auditioned for a part in The Crucible (1996), and had a non-speaking cameo in Peter Jackson's The Frighteners (1996)—Lynskey secured a leading role in the independent drama Foreign Correspondents, which was filmed in Los Angeles in 1997 and garnered attention for its use of crowdfunding, a strategy that was considered a "breakthrough" at the time. That same year, she was cast as Drew Barrymore's "charming and funny" stepsister in Ever After, an epic re-imagining of the Cinderella story. The film was a commercial and critical success upon its release in 1998.
In 1999, Lynskey appeared in four features: teen comedy Detroit Rock City; an adaptation of Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard; British gangster drama Shooters; and the cult hit But I'm a Cheerleader, which is often referred to as one of the best LGBT films ever made. Next, she adopted a New Jersey accent for a key role as Piper Perabo's best friend in the romantic comedy Coyote Ugly (2000), and returned to New Zealand to star as Alice—a free-spirited drifter who embarks on a dangerous road trip—in the award-winning Snakeskin (2001), which screened at the Cannes Film Festival. For the latter, she received strong reviews and a nomination for Best Actress at the New Zealand Film Awards.
In 2002, Lynskey re-teamed with director Andy Tennant—whom she previously worked with on Ever After—to play a childhood acquaintance of Reese Witherspoon in the romantic comedy Sweet Home Alabama, which had a record-breaking opening weekend in North America. In recent years, the scene in which Lynskey's character (Lurlynn) nurses her baby in a crowded bar has been noted for its cultural relevance. Next, she appeared alongside Katie Holmes in psychological thriller Abandon, the directorial debut of Stephen Gaghan. The film received negative reviews from critics, but Lynskey's performance was considered to be one of its strong points, with Todd McCarthy of Variety pointing out that she "does some self-conscious scene stealing". That same year, she made her television debut in Rose Red, a miniseries written by Stephen King. The series was a ratings hit with an average of 18.5 million viewers over three consecutive nights.
2003–2011: Supporting film roles and Two and a Half Men
In 2003, Lynskey played the role of Amy Brand—a writer for The New Republic—in Shattered Glass, a film based on the career of former journalist Stephen Glass (played by Hayden Christensen). Jeff Otto of IGN called it "a tension-filled drama with great performances", while Andrew Sarris felt it was "as well executed as any movie I've seen this year", noting that "the performances of … Ms. Sevigny, Ms. Dawson and Ms. Lynskey do more than complement Mr. Christensen's central characterization; they provide a sane backdrop for [his] pathological deceptions to steadily unravel against". Later that year, she landed the part of Rose, the devious but lovable neighbor of Charlie Harper (played by Charlie Sheen) on the CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men. After initially appearing in the pilot episode as a guest character, Lynskey was invited to become a series regular and went on to appear frequently throughout the show's first two seasons. Despite leaving the main cast in 2005 to concentrate on film work, she continued to make guest appearances on the show up until its final episode, which aired in February 2015.
Honestly, doing three or four episodes a year enabled me to pay my mortgage and do independent films. I had this double life: I had this whole indie side of my career, and people in that world didn't know I was on this huge sitcom. Then, people would recognize me from Two and a Half Men and think that I never had another job. But I couldn't have done one without the other.
—Lynskey on how the success of Two and a Half Men enabled her to pursue a career in independent film, 2016
In 2006, Lynskey appeared as the wife of Rene Gagnon (played by Jesse Bradford) in the Clint Eastwood-directed war feature Flags of Our Fathers. Writing for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Burl Burlingame called it "the richest testament Hollywood has yet made about the paroxysm of World War II ... an astounding movie on every level", while Peter Travers of Rolling Stone believed it was "a film of awesome power and blistering provocation". The following year, she played one of the principal characters—a woman desperate to get away from her abusive husband—on the short-lived television series Drive, which was cancelled by FOX midway through its first season run. In her review for the Los Angeles Times of the series' first two episodes, Mary McNamara described Lynskey as "especially compelling".
In 2008, Lynskey had a supporting role in the three-part Western miniseries Comanche Moon, which aired on CBS. The series received mixed reviews from critics, but People commented that Lynskey's performance was among the "best" in the cast. Later that year, she returned once again to New Zealand to star in the romantic drama Show of Hands, for which she earned a nomination for Best Actress at the Qantas Film and Television Awards.
Lynskey received strong reviews in 2009 for her appearance in Away We Go, a comedy-drama directed by Sam Mendes, where she played a woman who has suffered a series of miscarriages. Referring to the scene in which her character (Munch) performs a pole dance in front of her grieving husband, Wesley Morris of The Boston Globe stated: "Lynskey dramatizes sadness and dysfunction with quiet, moving physicality. [Her] character's whole life is there in her long face and drooping limbs. It's the best performance in the movie". Next, she co-starred as Matt Damon's wife, Ginger, in Steven Soderbergh's comedic biographical drama The Informant!. Based on real events, the film was described as "devilish fun" by Rolling Stone, while Geoffrey Macnab of The Independent noted that Lynskey provided "sterling support". During promotion of the film in September that year, Soderbergh told the Los Angeles Times:
She is so watchable. You never quite know what you're going to get, you just know it's going to be good. Her rhythms are really unusual, like her cadence and her reaction times to things, and the way she sort of lays out a sentence. It's just really, really interesting.
While making the film, Soderbergh discouraged Lynskey from contacting the real person on which her character was based, as he wanted her to reach her own conclusion about whether Ginger had been complicit in her husband's crimes. "I decided she had no idea what was going on", she later said. "She was trusting, she was the kind of wife who thinks her job is to stay in the house and take care of the kids ... even though some things didn't necessarily add up ... She wasn't asking too many questions". Lynskey counts her time working on The Informant! as one of her favorite professional experiences.
Matt Damon said something to me that I really have lived by ever since ... "At the end of your career, when someone looks over your filmography, all they remember is if the movie was good or not. They're not saying, 'Oh, he [played] that crazy character!' [or] 'Oh, all those people were in that movie' ... all people know is if the movie was good or not" ... so, if you consistently choose good scripts ... you're going to build a very strong résumé.
—Lynskey on choosing film roles, 2012
Also in 2009, Lynskey appeared as Edward Norton's pregnant fiancée in Tim Blake Nelson's black comedy Leaves of Grass—with Seongyong Cho of RogerEbert.com writing that her performance was one of the key contributors to the film's "quirky charm"—and as the younger sister of George Clooney's character in Up in the Air. The latter, which was directed by Jason Reitman, was nominated in six categories—including Best Picture—at the 82nd Academy Awards. Reitman had never before cast a foreigner to play an American in one of his films, but Lynskey said that she "tricked" him into giving her the part by not speaking to him during her audition, therefore concealing her real accent. Reitman said he was "thrilled" by this. In October 2009, Lynskey was presented with a Spotlight Award at the Hollywood Film Festival.
In 2010, Lynskey had a starring role in Helena from the Wedding, which Jon Frosch of The Hollywood Reporter called a "wise, luminous low-budget comedy", adding, "The actors form a seamless ensemble, but [the film] belongs to ... Lynskey". The following year, she starred opposite Kurt Russell in the sports drama Touchback, and received praise for her portrayal of Cindy—a recovering drug addict—in Win Win, where she co-starred with Paul Giamatti. In his review of the latter for The Hollywood Reporter, David Rooney commended the film's director (Tom McCarthy) for his "unerring touch with minor-key character-based comedy and emotionally honest drama", while noting that Lynskey "brings welcome soft shadings to the story's disruptive element". Meanwhile, Mary Pols stated in her review for Time that "[Lynskey] has become one of the most reliably intriguing supporting actresses in film ... she had [parts in] Away We Go, The Informant! and Up in the Air ... she was wonderful in all three. In [this] she gives a very different kind of performance and is even better".
2012–2016: Transition to lead roles
In 2012, Lynskey appeared alongside Steve Carell in Lorene Scafaria's comedy Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, and had a key role as the mentally troubled Aunt Helen in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, a drama based on the novel of the same name. Due to the nature of her character in the latter, Lynskey said it had been a difficult decision to take the part. Also that year, she starred in the romantic comedy Putzel, with Mark Hinson of the Tallahassee Democrat writing that her performance—in the role of Sally, a professional dancer and the love interest of the main character—"steals the show ... [the film] sparks to life whenever the charming Lynskey arrives on the screen"; while in his review for Redefine, Allen Huang described her as "delightful" and "deftly believable".
Lynskey's portrayal of Amy Minsky—a divorcee who finds herself having to move back in with her parents—in Hello I Must Be Going (2012) was particularly well received by critics. For the first time in her career, Lynskey appeared in every scene throughout the film; she described the experience as "a lot of pressure", and said that she initially assumed the part would be given to somebody like Michelle Williams or Maggie Gyllenhaal. Speaking of his decision to cast Lynskey, director Todd Louiso said, "I knew if I cast her, the film had the potential to resonate on a thousand different levels". In his review for the Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Turan wrote:
If you know the name Melanie Lynskey, you're already planning to see her in Hello I Must Be Going. If you don't, this film will have you making up for lost time. That's how good an actress she is.
USA Today praised the film for being "funny, well-written, involving and emotionally honest", while noting that "Lynskey brings dimension and intelligence" and a "sympathetic blend of humor, dignity and naturalness to the role". The performance earned her a nomination for the Gotham Independent Film Award for Breakthrough Actor. In 2015, Screen Rant placed Lynskey's portrayal of Amy at #6 on their list of the "20 Best Acting Performances of The Last 5 Years".
In 2013, Lynskey had a starring role in The Big Ask, an independent comedy-drama. The film received a mixed reception from critics, but Lynskey's portrayal of Hannah was praised. In April the following year, she was named an Emerging Master honoree at the RiverRun International Film Festival. Her next role was in Happy Christmas (2014), where she played Kelly, an aspiring novelist whose passion for writing is rekindled when her sister-in-law (played by Anna Kendrick) comes to visit. The film drew attention for being almost entirely improvised. Stephen Holden of The New York Times commented, "The performances in Happy Christmas are so natural that the actors melt into their characters", while other critics singled out Lynskey as a highlight. Later that year, she appeared as Amy Poehler's best friend in David Wain's They Came Together, and played the female leads in We'll Never Have Paris and Goodbye to All That. In his review of the latter, Bilge Ebiri described Lynskey as "fantastic". Next, she provided the voice of Beatrice, an ill-tempered bluebird, for the Cartoon Network miniseries Over the Garden Wall. Kevin Johnson of The A.V. Club noted, "Lynskey steals the show with her amazing putdowns and passive-aggressiveness, smartly avoiding overdone sass or sarcasm". The series went on to receive three Creative Arts Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Animated Program.
From 2015 to 2016, Lynskey played Michelle Pierson on the HBO series Togetherness, which focused on the lives of two couples living under the same roof. The show—which was created by the Duplass brothers—ran for two seasons, and was praised for its intimate storytelling and the performances of its cast. Robert Lloyd of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "[Lynskey] is all deep waters and live wires; soft and steely, trying on new personas for size, her Michelle becomes the series' gravitational center. You can feel her feeling". The performance earned Lynskey a nomination for the 2015 Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. Despite missing out on a Primetime Emmy Award nomination in 2016, she was singled out as a worthy candidate in the run-up to that year's ceremony. In March 2016, it was announced that HBO had decided not to renew Togetherness for a third season. Lynskey later compared this to having her "heart broken by someone I'm still in love with".
For her role in The Intervention (2016), Lynskey received the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Individual Performance at the Sundance Film Festival. In his review for IndieWire, Russ Fischer pointed out Lynskey's "tremendously good comic timing", while Ethan Anderton of /Film noted, "Lynskey is the standout, delivering a performance that is genuine, funny and touching all at the same time". The film was the directorial debut of actress Clea DuVall, who wrote the character of Annie, an uptight alcoholic, specifically for Lynskey. She sought the help of a therapist before the film went into production to prepare herself for working with DuVall, a close friend of several years: "I didn't want anything to happen to our friendship and a big challenge was being able to stick up for myself and my perspective in regard to the script and this character". Also that year, she starred opposite Robert Webb in the BBC Two comedy pilot Our Ex-Wife, and had leading roles in the independent features Rainbow Time, Little Boxes, and The Great & The Small. Joe Leydon of Variety described her performance in the latter as "quietly devastating".
2017–present: Continued career
Lynskey's performance in the Netflix crime thriller I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore (2017) was roundly praised by critics. The film's director (Macon Blair) wrote the character of Ruth, a downtrodden vigilante who teams up with her neighbor (played by Elijah Wood) to track down a burglar, with Lynskey in mind. The role proved to be physically challenging, as it involved stunt work and the use of prosthetics. Peter Debruge of Variety commended Blair for giving Lynskey "something unforgettable to do" and felt that she delivered her "best work yet", while Time Out described her as "seething and magnetic". In his review for RogerEbert.com, Matt Zoller Seitz said:
[Lynskey is] one of those actresses I'm never not glad to see, and it's a treat to see her front-and-center here, carrying an entire movie mainly with her eyes, face and shoulders. A performance like this one can be quite tricky—you're essentially reactive a lot of the time, more of a sponge for the film than the motor driving it along—but Lynskey makes everything active by letting you feel Ruth's emotions and sense her train of thought as she puts various pieces together in her head, drawing correct or wrongheaded conclusions. She's also just a terrific audience surrogate. When she snarls or snaps, I wanted to cheer.
Following the release of I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore, Lynskey had starring roles that same year as the parent of a troubled high school student in the controversial drama And Then I Go; a defense lawyer in the Australian miniseries Sunshine, for which she received a Golden Nymph Award nomination; the mother of a girl with supernatural powers in The Changeover; and in the horror film XX, in which her character frantically tries to hide her husband's body after finding him dead. In her review of the latter, Stephanie Zacharek of Time wrote, "The picture has a wry, comic charge, and Lynskey, terrific as always, brings a grace note of pathos to the wicked proceedings".
Lynskey had a starring role in the independent drama Sadie in 2018, playing a woman struggling to raise her daughter while her husband is on a tour of duty in Afghanistan. Variety described the film as "quietly absorbing", adding that Lynskey's work was "strong" and "compelling"; while Frank Scheck of The Hollywood Reporter wrote, "It's no surprise that Lynskey, who has quietly [been] establishing herself as one of indie cinema's finest actors, is once again superb in her emotionally complex turn". Next, she appeared in the principal role of Molly Strand on the first season of Castle Rock, a psychological horror series based on characters and settings from the novels of Stephen King. The series premiered on Hulu in July 2018 and garnered positive reviews, particularly for the cast; Paste referred to Lynskey as "delicately complex", while Alan Sepinwall of Rolling Stone felt the show was "the latest example of how much humanity and grounding [Lynskey] can bring to the most surreal and macabre of stories ... a tradition that goes back to when she was a teenager in Heavenly Creatures". The series was later renewed for a second season; however, due to the anthological nature of the narrative, it featured a different set of actors.
Between April and May 2020, Lynskey co-starred with Cate Blanchett in the nine-part miniseries Mrs. America, a political drama centred on the career of conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly. The series ran on FX on Hulu and was widely acclaimed by critics, with James Poniewozik of The New York Times calling it "breathtaking ... a meticulously created and observed mural that finds the germ of contemporary America in the striving of righteously mad women". Lynskey's portrayal of the real-life Rosemary Thomson, a staunch supporter of Schlafly's, was described as "delightful" and a "standout" among the cast. She later called working with Blanchett "one of the great experiences of my life".
In 2021, Lynskey played the principal role of Hannah—a drug-dependent layabout who unwittingly lands a job as a tour guide in a historic mansion—in the buddy comedy Lady of the Manor, the directorial debut of actor Justin Long and his brother, Christian. Lynskey said that she agreed to take the part because "the thought of being in sweatpants and just acting like I was high for a whole movie was so freeing". Critics were dismissive of the film's reliance on scatological humour, but Lynskey's performance was well received, with Angie Han of The Hollywood Reporter commenting that she "brings the same airtight commitment to hot mess Hannah that she does to all her varied roles" and finding her chemistry with co-star Judy Greer to be "warm and genuine"; while Screen Rant felt that she "shines as ... the rudderless, classless stoner screw-up. [She] unabashedly embraces physical humor ... and really commits to the gags. There are a few laugh-out-loud moments in the film, and Lynskey is at the center of all of them".
Lynskey will star as Shauna Sheridan, a plane crash survivor, on the upcoming Showtime drama series Yellowjackets. The ensemble cast includes Christina Ricci and Juliette Lewis. In November 2020, it was announced that Lynskey had been cast alongside Jennifer Lawrence, Leonardo DiCaprio and Meryl Streep in the comedy feature Don't Look Up, directed by Adam McKay. The film is due for release on 10 December 2021. She will also star as Betty Gore—opposite Jessica Biel—in the Hulu true crime miniseries Candy, which is due for release in 2022.
Lynskey describes herself as a character actress. "Even when I'm reading a script where I'm supposed to be looking at the lead role, I'll find myself gravitating toward some small weirdo in a few scenes instead".
Regarding her acting technique, Lynskey has said, "I don't have any training ... so the only thing I have to go on is my own instinct. So if a director gives me a note that doesn't feel like it's in line with my instinct, it's very hard for me to do something that sort of feels like a lie. So, I'll argue it, and I can get kind of feisty because I feel it in my body, I know what is right".
Asked by a journalist in 2012 about how she felt being cast—up to that point in her career—as a supporting player rather than a lead, Lynskey said it was something she had thought about a lot, and that the "meaty" parts are mostly written for men, or actresses like Meryl Streep. "For a while, I was only being sent fat-girl parts", she said. "Seriously? Sometimes I feel like I'm making some kind of radical statement because I'm a size 6". She told a different journalist that same year, "It's been a big issue that I'm not [famous] … I'll audition for something and then the feedback has been, 'The director wants you, the creative people want you, but the studio is saying no' … but I understand. People are investing a lot of money and they want somewhat of a guarantee". Lynskey has subsequently taken on leading roles in numerous independent films and has been labelled an "indie queen".
Speaking in 2017 about taking risks in her film work, Lynskey said, "I want to tell stories about women who are interesting and complicated and not like people you've seen before ... There aren't that many opportunities [to do that] except in the independent film world. I've made films that have cost $50,000 for the entire film. If you're willing to work like that, you get chances to do really creative, interesting stuff".
Lynskey is often complimented on her ability to perform an American accent. She attributes this to staying with Joss Whedon when she first moved to Los Angeles: "When I came here, I stayed in his guest bedroom ... I watched movie after movie and learned American accents". Tim Blake Nelson recalled that when she auditioned for the part of Colleen in Leaves of Grass, "she came in and auditioned for me and then… she opened [her] mouth and started talking in a New Zealand accent and I just couldn't believe it, because her south-eastern Oklahoma accent was so spot on, and it's a very specific accent".
In February 2013, she participated in a Live Read performance of the 1992 film Glengarry Glen Ross. The read-through was directed by Jason Reitman, who assembled a cast of women to read the all-male script; Lynskey portrayed the role of George Aaronow (originally played by Alan Arkin).
Lynskey featured on several occasions as part of The Thrilling Adventure Hour, a staged production and podcast in the style of old-time radio that was held monthly in Los Angeles. The show ran from March 2005 to April 2015.
In 2016, it was reported that Lynskey was attached to play the leading role in a television series created by Pamela Ribon, based on the memoir Drunk Mom by Jowita Bydlowska. She described it as a "dream" part, however the project has yet to materialize.
In 2001, Lynskey met American actor Jimmi Simpson during the filming of Rose Red, in which they both appeared. They became engaged in 2005 and married on 14 April 2007, in a chapel on Lake Hayes, near Queenstown, New Zealand. Lynskey filed for divorce from Simpson on 25 September 2012, citing irreconcilable differences. The divorce was finalized on 23 May 2014. In February 2017, she became engaged to Jason Ritter after four years of dating. They have since married and have a daughter, who was born in December 2018.
Lynskey lives in Los Angeles. She is a close friend of Clea DuVall, whom she met when they appeared together in But I'm a Cheerleader. Lynskey became a vegetarian at age 10 after learning about sheep farming, but now identifies as a pescetarian. She suffers from misophonia.
Lynskey has been open about her struggle with an eating disorder, which lasted for several years. Speaking in 2016, she said that she was "very unwell for a long time", and later recalled that "even when I was … 58 kilograms I would still be shamed in wardrobe fittings for not being sample size".
|1994||Heavenly Creatures||Pauline Parker||Peter Jackson|
|1996||The Frighteners||Deputy||Peter Jackson|
|1998||Ever After||Jacqueline||Andy Tennant|
|1999||Foreign Correspondents||Melody||Mark Tapio Kines|
|Detroit Rock City||Beth||Adam Rifkin|
|But I'm a Cheerleader||Hilary||Jamie Babbit|
|The Cherry Orchard||Dunyasha||Michael Cacoyannis|
|Measureless to Man||Adam Larkin||Short film|
|2000||Coyote Ugly||Gloria||David McNally|
|Abandon||Mousy Julie||Stephen Gaghan||Credited as Melanie Jayne Lynskey|
|Sweet Home Alabama||Lurlynn||Andy Tennant|
|2003||Claustrophobia||Lauren||Mark Tapio Kines|
|Shattered Glass||Amy Brand||Billy Ray|
|2004||The Nearly Unadventurous Life of Zoe Cadwaulder||Zoe Cadwaulder||Buboo Kakati||Short film|
|2005||Say Uncle||Susan||Peter Paige|
|2006||Flags of Our Fathers||Pauline Harnois||Clint Eastwood|
|Itty Bitty Titty Committee||Plastic Surgery Lady||Jamie Babbit||Uncredited|
|2008||Show of Hands||Jess||Anthony McCarten|
|A Quiet Little Marriage||Monique||Mo Perkins|
|2009||Away We Go||Munch||Sam Mendes|
|Up in the Air||Julie Bingham||Jason Reitman|
|The Informant!||Ginger Whitacre||Steven Soderbergh|
|Leaves of Grass||Colleen||Tim Blake Nelson|
|2010||Helena from the Wedding||Alice||Joseph Infantolino|
|2011||Win Win||Cindy||Tom McCarthy|
|2012||Hello I Must Be Going||Amy||Todd Louiso|
|Eye of the Hurricane||Amelia Kyte||Jesse Wolfe|
|Seeking a Friend for the End of the World||Karen||Lorene Scafaria|
|The Perks of Being a Wallflower||Aunt Helen||Stephen Chbosky|
|2013||The Big Ask||Hannah||Thomas Beatty
|2014||Happy Christmas||Kelly||Joe Swanberg|
|They Came Together||Brenda||David Wain|
|Chu and Blossom||Miss Shoemaker||Charles Chu
|We'll Never Have Paris||Devon||Simon Helberg
|Goodbye to All That||Annie Wall||Angus MacLachlan|
|2015||Digging for Fire||Squiggy||Joe Swanberg|
|2016||The Intervention||Annie||Clea DuVall|
|Rainbow Time||Lindsay||Linas Phillips|
|The Great & The Small||Margaret||Dusty Bias|
|Little Boxes||Gina McNulty-Burns||Rob Meyer|
|Folk Hero & Funny Guy||Becky||Jeff Grace|
|2017||I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore||Ruth||Macon Blair|
|Segment: "The Birthday Party"|
|1 Mile to You||Coach Rowan||Leif Tilden|
|And Then I Go||Janice||Vincent Grashaw|
|The Changeover||Kate Chant||Stuart McKenzie
|2021||Lady of the Manor||Hannah||Justin Long
|Don't Look Up||June||Adam McKay||Post-production|
|2002||Rose Red||Rachel Wheaton||3 episodes|
|2003||The Shield||Marcy||2 episodes|
|2003–2015||Two and a Half Men||Rose||63 episodes|
|2007||Drive||Wendy Patrakas||6 episodes|
|2008||Comanche Moon||Pearl Coleman||3 episodes|
|2008||Psych||Emily Bloom||Episode: "Black and Tan: A Crime of Fashion"|
|2008||The L Word||Clea Mason||2 episodes|
|2009||It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia||Kate||Episode: "The Gang Exploits the Mortgage Crisis"|
|2010||Memphis Beat||Annaliese Jones||Episode: "Polk Salad Annie"|
|2010–2012||The Life & Times of Tim||Becky||Voice; 6 episodes|
|2012||House||Natalie Tavares||Episode: "Better Half"|
|2014||Over the Garden Wall||Beatrice||Voice; 8 episodes|
|2014–2015||Jake and the Never Land Pirates||Pearl||Voice; 2 episodes|
|2015–2016||Togetherness||Michelle Pierson||16 episodes|
|2015||Key & Peele||Fiancé||Episode: "The Job Interview"|
|2016–2018||Future-Worm!||Megan / Madeline Madison||Voice; 13 episodes|
|2016||Animals.||Linda||Voice; Episode: "Squirrels"|
|2017||American Dad!||Sharon||Voice; Episode: "A Whole Slotta Love"|
|2017||Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later||Laura||2 episodes|
|2017||Sunshine||Zara Skelton||4 episodes|
|2018||Summer Camp Island||Sun||Voice; 3 episodes|
|2018||Castle Rock||Molly Strand||10 episodes|
|2019||Easy||Beth||Episode: "Blank Pages"|
|2020||Mrs. America||Rosemary Thomson||9 episodes|
|2021||Young Sheldon||Professor Dora Ericson||2 episodes|
|2021||Mom||Shannon||Episode: "My Kinda People and the Big To-Do"|
|2021||Yellowjackets||Shauna Sheridan||In production|
Awards and nominations
- Awards Circuit Community Awards
|2009||Up in the Air||Best Cast Ensemble (shared with the cast)||Runner-up|||
|2012||The Perks of Being a Wallflower||Best Cast Ensemble (shared with the cast)||Nominated|||
- Central Ohio Film Critics Association
|2010||Up in the Air||Best Ensemble (shared with the cast)||Nominated|||
- Chicago Alt.Film Fest
|1999||Foreign Correspondents||Best Actress||Nominated|||
- CinEuphoria Awards
|2011||Away We Go||Best Supporting Actress - International Competition||Won|||
- Denver Film Critics Society
|2010||Up in the Air||Best Acting Ensemble (shared with the cast)||Nominated|||
- Fargo Film Festival
|2010||Up in the Air||Ensemble Cast (shared with the cast)||Nominated|||
|2012||Hello I Must Be Going||Breakthrough Actor||Nominated|||
|2017||I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore||Best Actress||Nominated|||
|2009||Melanie Lynskey||Spotlight Award||Won|||
|1995||Heavenly Creatures||Best Actress||Won|||
|2009||Show of Hands||Best Lead Actress in a Feature Film||Nominated|||
|2014||Melanie Lynskey||Emerging Master||Won|||
|2012||The Perks of Being a Wallflower||Best Performance by an Ensemble (shared with the cast)||Won|||
|2016||The Intervention||U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Individual Performance||Won|||
- Visa Entertainment Screen Awards
|2010||The Informant!||Best New Zealand Actress in a Film||Nominated|||
|Melanie Lynskey||Best New Zealand Export||Nominated|||
|2009||Up in the Air||Best Ensemble (shared with the cast)||Nominated|||
- Behind the Voice Actors Awards
|2014||Over the Garden Wall||Best Vocal Ensemble in a New Television Series (People's Choice) (shared with the cast)||Won|||
|Over the Garden Wall||Best Vocal Ensemble in a New Television Series (shared with the cast)||Nominated|||
|Over the Garden Wall||Best Female Lead Vocal Performance in a Television Series - Comedy/Musical||Nominated|||
|2015||Togetherness||Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series||Nominated|||
|2018||Sunshine||Golden Nymph Award for Outstanding Actress (Long Fiction Program)||Nominated|||
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