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DID YOU READ

“Margot at the Wedding”

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By Matt Singer

IFC News

[Photo: “Margot at the Wedding,” Paramount Classics, 2007]

There are two family trees in Noah Baumbach’s “Margot at the Wedding,” and both are in deep trouble. The one in the backyard of the Zellers’ house is overgrown. Neighbors say it’s dead and demand it be cut down. The Zellers themselves can’t agree on anything except the fact that the tree must stay, protecting it as a way of clinging to their own flimsy relationships.

The title character (played by Nicole Kidman) returns home with her son Claude (Zane Pais) for the title nuptials of her sister Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh, Baumbach’s real-life wife). Margot’s thoroughly convinced that Pauline’s sad-sack fiancé Malcolm (Jack Black) isn’t good enough for her sister, just as we’re convinced that Margot is probably projecting some of her own marital dissatisfaction onto the situation. Like Baumbach’s last film, the wonderful “The Squid and the Whale,” “Margot” explores how resilient families truly are in the wake of disintegrating marriages.

Whether these stories are autobiographical or not, Baumbach clearly understands dysfunctional families. In the case of “Margot at the Wedding” though, he may have invented one so convincingly screwed up, so far beyond repair that spending 90 loveless, awkward minutes with them could be seen as a waste of time. “The Squid and the Whale”‘s Berkmans were at odds, but likeably so; the Zellers are similarly unhappy, but they don’t share the sweetness and wry sense of humor that made their predecessors so entertaining. Margot’s most ironically poignant line comes at the end of the film when she tells Claude, “It’s good you’re going. I wouldn’t want to be around me either.” It’s a sentiment many audience members will share.

That’s unfortunate, because Baumbach remains a clever writer, and his skills as a director continue to grow. Nothing is overlooked, and you have to admire how Baumbach micromanages scenes to make big points with little events — consider the way he punctuates a particularly uncomfortable scene at a pool party with the discovery of a dead mouse in the deep end. “Margot” is far and away his best-looking and most carefully visually crafted film as a director, and the underlit interiors and muted colors aesthetic augments the story’s emotional realism. He also draws a wonderful performance out of Black, who is at his funniest in a role that isn’t necessarily written all that humorously, drawing the laughs out with delivery, posture and glances (his physique and lack of shame in his underwear helps with the chuckles too). The movie would probably be better off, in fact, if it was “Malcolm at the Wedding.”

But it’s Margot at the wedding, and so the movie hangs on her; the way she rejects her husband and her new lover; the way she treats Claude more like a sibling, or even a psychiatrist, than a son. She’s self-obsessed, yet totally devoid of self-awareness. That contradiction is never more fully on display as the scene when Margot decides to climb that dead family tree in order to prove just how good she used to be at climbing trees, only to realize that once she gets up there she can’t get back down. And now she’s stuck.

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

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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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.”

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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. 

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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.