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NYFF: “The Darjeeling Limited.”

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"I guess I still have some more healing to do."
Wes Anderson
, we love you, but you’re bringing us down. The hermetically sealed world of your films — the man-children, the inexplicable melancholy, the flat, wide shots, the fetishized artifacts of adolescence and carefully chosen vintage pop soundtracks — has always resonated so strongly for us. We shrugged off all accusations of tweeness, we defended "The Life Aquatic" against the most virulent of critics, we saw in that AmEx commercial promising signs of self-awareness and gentle self-mockery. But with "The Darjeeling Limited" you may have finally vanished into your own well-contemplated navel and, we’re sorry to say, lost us entirely.

"The Darjeeling Limited"’s dysfunctional family includes the three wealthy Whitman brothers: Francis (Owen Wilson), Peter (Adrien Brody) and Jack (Jason Schwartzman). A year ago their father was hit by a taxi and killed in New York, and the three haven’t spoken or seen each other since his funeral. A near-death experience prompts Francis to organize a sibling reunion aboard a train traveling through India, where they’ll attempt to achieve spiritual enlightenment by visiting shrines and following the advice of a guru, all things laid out on daily laminated agendas by Francis’ assistant. Francis is the controlling one, Peter the nervous one and Jack the writer/ladies’ man/runaway, but they barely conform to those identifiers — mostly, they’re a squabbling three-headed, puppy-eyed monster wolfing down prescription meds and toting around a lot of figurative and literal baggage (designed by Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton — this may be the first film to costar a matching suitcase set). The three are all in the grip of the kind of bruise-eyed, deep-rooted malaise that so often plagues Anderson characters, on the Whitmans’ part because the they’re still mourning their father and because their mother has abandoned them. It’s hard to blame her — the Whitman brothers, despite the considerable charm of the actors playing them, just aren’t very likable. They’re stylized imaginings of poor little rich boys whose main burden in life is a search of meaning, a tough sell even without the petulance and the fighting over $6,000 belts. They mistreat people until they’re thrown off to fend for themselves, leading them to the inevitable moment of real-life trauma that breaks the film’s bubble of whimsy and forces the characters to find their way to an emotional epiphany, a segment that, when it arrives, feels jarringly and insultingly unearned.

Anderson’s world is shrinking, from the full run of Rushmore Academy to 111 Archer Avenue to the Belafonte to "The Darjeeling Limited"’s titular train, which in one shot is shown to contain all of the characters of the film in their own cramped, themed compartments. The natural progression is for his next film to take place entirely in a series of intricate dioramas (which we suppose is one way you could look at the planned stop-motion "Fantastic Mr. Fox"). There’s no denying that Anderson could use a bit of fresh air and a look outward. The film is still rife with reminders of his talent: the aforementioned pan along the train; another encounter out of two separate windows as it travels in the night; an early shot in luxurious slow-mo as Adrien Brody runs past Bill Murray — in a tiny role, billed simply as "The Businessman," he seems, more poignantly, in retrospect, to be a stand-in for Whitman Sr. — while the Kinks’ "This Time Tomorrow" surfaces to overwhelm the soundtrack. But these moments are adrift in a whole lot of half-hearted crap. Maybe it really is time to put the prolonged boyhood to rest — there are plenty of genuinely sad things happening out there in the world to make all this unaccountable, fanciful woe seem past its due date.

"The Darjeeling Limited" screens September 28 at 7:45pm at Frederick P. Rose Hall and 9pm at Avery Fisher Hall. It opens September 29th in New York.

+ "The Darjeeling Limited" (FilmLinc)
+ "The Darjeeling Limited" (Fox Searchlight)



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.