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The week’s critic wrangle: “Waitress,” “Away From Her.”

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+ "Waitress": What would have happened if Adrienne Shelly‘s final film were a stinker? Most likely, it would have managed only a negligible release, and most critics would have been able to avert their gaze and avoid trashing the work of the recently murdered. Fortunately, "Waitress" is good, or at least good enough, slender and sweet-natured enough to attract reviews ranging from glowing to ruefully approving. "Waitress is a wee romantic charmer, a delectable Dixie screwball romp that never loses its spry sense of discovery," writes Owen Gleiberman at Entertainment Weekly, adding that "the movie is always high-spirited, but it’s also wistful, sexy, and melancholy." A.O. Scott at the New York Times goes on:

It is not so much that Ms. Shelly has banished realism from her story, but rather that she has tamed and shaped it, finding a perfect, difficult-to-achieve balance of enchantment and plausibility. The story, in which resilience is rewarded, and meanness is banished, is comforting without feeling unduly sentimental, thanks to its mood of easygoing, tolerant honesty.

Scott also points out that the extramarital affair between Keri Russell‘s Jenna and Nathan Fillion‘s Dr. Pomatter is "a rare example of movie adultery (he’s married too) without punishment or apology, and it works because both actors are so darn likable."

Stephanie Zacharek at Salon allows that "it takes a while for this ultimately sweet little picture to find its footing: At first, it’s all a bit too sweet." Eventually, though "[t]he picture’s off-kilter rhythms ultimately keep it from being too treacly, and its spirit of optimistic negativity doesn’t hurt, either." Nathan Lee at the Village Voice has some elegantly phrased concerns about the film’s set up ("Could someone pass me the barf bucket?") but is pleasantly surprised: "Waitress makes palatable everything repellent about American independent movies of the Sundance smash type. There’s a fine line between crowd-pleaser and crime against cinema, and to my mind this guileless romcom largely stays the course." At the LA Weekly, Ella Taylor finds the film less memorable than the lurid real-life events that preceded its release, but does like how, "[w]ashed in a honeyed 1950s glow, Waitress has a mildly puckish way with outlandish baked goods and pert dialogue." At Slant, Ed Gonzalez is lukewarm on the film, but does writes that though "Predictably scripted, the film also impresses with its flurry of very funny one-liners and excellent performances, from Andy Griffith as Old Joe to Shelly herself as a waitress who works at the man’s pie diner."

"Because the movie is so hit-and-miss," muses David Edelstein at New York, "I kept getting thrown out of it and returning to thoughts of its maker—of what must have been her busy inner life, her evident joy in making movies, and her potential, down the road, to develop an authentic American voice and make wonderful screwball farces." Dana Stevens at Slate writes that:

Waitress is, by any reasonable standard, a fairly mediocre movie. But the two facts, that of Shelly’s death and of the movie’s release, are inextricable from one another; there’s no way to separate them from each other, and no reason to. When you watch Waitress, you’re also watching a meta-movie about Shelly’s brutal end, and the spirit that bursts from every corner of this overcrowded movie is so genuinely warm that trashing it feels like panning a so-so baton-twirling performance at the church talent show.

Keith Phipps at the Onion AV Club expresses similar sentiments: "It’s an imperfect film, but it’s the kind of imperfect film of which it would be nice to have seen Shelly make more."


The spark of life.+ "Away From Her": Actress Sarah Polley makes an unconventional directorial debut for a 20-something in this story of a marriage in its twilight (and Alzheimer’s-beset) years. Our thoughts from Sundance are here; the critics are universally fond, verging on ecstatic with regards to Julie Christie‘s performance and still-luminous beauty. "Polley’s got a devastating hook in her crystalline feature debut ‘Away from Her,’" writes Michael Koresky at indieWIRE. "[A]s Christie’s Alzheimer’s-afflicted Fiona slowly slips away from her husband Grant (Gordon Pinsent), she’s also gradually fading from us, viewers, lovers of her vivaciousness, her glamour that never overshadowed her wisdom." Armond White at the New York Press adds that "Away From Her expands from its tragic tearjerker basis to be a movie
about the complexity of love and passion and sacrifice. Fiona and
Gordon’s story is scaled for modest, realistic effect, but Christie
makes it fascinating, almost mythic."

At New York, David Edelstein sums the film up as "a twilight-of-life love story, one that harshly demolishes our romantic notions of love and loyalty, then replaces them with something deeper and, finally, more consoling." "With little camera movement or assertive music, Polley creates a portrait that might be dubbed Scenes From a Marriage‘s End (the bearded Grant even resembling Erland Josephson)," observes Nick Schager at Slant.

Tasha Robinson at the Onion AV Club likes the film but is less prone to "mostly, it’s a subdued, well-shot character study that observes rather than dictates emotions." Lisa Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly has mild complaints about the adaptation, which expands on an Alice Munro short story: "The story now jigs forward and back, the nursing-home scenes have been expanded and quiver with somber concern, and Marian is quite another kind of woman off the page — someone softer, and more movie-friendly. Munro’s stark lily needed none of this gilding." A. O. Scott at the New York Times would disagree: "Ms. Polley’s triumph is to have preserved, and enriched, the individuality that Ms. Munro breathes into her characters."

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.


IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.



IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on and the IFC app.

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