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DID YOU READ

“Married Life”

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03072008_marriedlife.jpgBy Matt Singer

By the end of “Married Life,” the characters have caused each other a great deal of harm in order to better their own lives, and they know it. Is it wrong, they wonder, to build one’s happiness on the unhappiness of others? If it is, that makes going to the movies one of the most immoral acts you can do. What are movies, after all, if not the vicarious enjoyment of the suffering of others?

There’s plenty of suffering here, and thus plenty to enjoy. The film focuses on four people living at the turn of the 1950s and the damage they do to one another. Harry (Chris Cooper) is married to Pat (Patricia Clarkson), but their relationship chilled some time ago. Harry confides to his best friend Richard (Pierce Brosnan) that he wants something more out of a woman than just “the sex” by way of introducing him to his mistress, Kay (Rachel McAdams). While Richard — who initially considers marriage as “a mild illness” — falls for Kay, an oblivious Harry plots ways to remove an equally oblivious Pat from the picture.

The film is set specifically at the end of 1949. In American cinema terms, that sort of places it at the tail end of film noir, but just prior to the major melodramas of Douglas Sirk. It’s funny how we tend to think of these particular styles as so wholly different even though these films were often standing shoulder to shoulder at the box office (“The Big Heat” predated “Magnificent Obsession” by about ten months and it, in turn, predated “Kiss Me Deadly” by about ten months). In a sense, “Married Life” marries the two forms together in a way that honors, and also upends, the traditions of both. If you’re looking for one filmmaking mode or the other, you might be disappointed that the film isn’t as dark as the former or as serious as the latter. But if you’re willing to go along with a movie that plays with convention and ducks expectations, it all works.

Well, maybe not all. Some of the angles of this love rectangle are just a wee bit off. McAdams, in particular, doesn’t seem the right match — age-wise, temperament-wise, “the sex”-wise or otherwise — for Cooper. Her character would seem to fit the bill of a femme fatale but, as we’ve established, “Married Life” isn’t necessarily a film noir and so Kay isn’t necessarily required to play into any stereotypes. But she doesn’t play into much of anything else either; her performance is as flat as that unflattering platinum blonde hairdo she sports. She fares better in her scenes with Brosnan, but that may be thanks to the fact that he seems to be as authentic to the era as she is clearly not. Brosnan got a lot of credit for “updating” Bond back in the ’90s, but it’s obvious in the way he wears his suits, smokes his cigarettes, and carries his hat that he’s very comfortable in a period piece. He just looks like someone from a movie from 1949 and he’s got just the right sort of ladies’ man persona for a character as lovesick as Richard.

I like the way the film builds to one climax but delivers another even more satisfying one, and I like the way the director, Ira Sachs (previously of the 2005 Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner, “Forty Shades of Blue”), piles on layer after layer of guilt, deceit, and paranoia and still has the guts to go for a happy ending. The characters suffer for our pleasure, and, ultimately, their own.

[Patricia Clarkson in “Married Life,” Sony Pictures Classics, 2007]

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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.