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“Breaking Upwards” and “The Greatest” Explore Young Love’s Doldrums

“Breaking Upwards” and “The Greatest” Explore Young Love’s Doldrums (photo)

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Now is the early spring of our discontent. Every year around this time, many of the films clotting theaters are the indies no one thinks will secure an Oscar nomination or the big-budget features studios don’t have the faith will score sweet summer box-office numbers. Admittedly, these movies can turn out to be real gems — ones that are too original to be reduced to the glib two-term descriptions (Vampire Juno! The Graduate 2!) that calm distributors down. But more often, cinematically speaking, April is the cruelest month.

Take “Breaking Upwards,” twentysomething director Daryl Wein’s ostensibly fictional feature about Daryl (Daryl Wein)’s codependent breakup with Zoe (Zoe Lister Jones, who cowrote and coproduced the film with — wait for it — Daryl). The meta-meta premise may sound sketchy, but its execution is far, far worse. Overprivileged and fearful, 23-year-olds Zoe and Daryl inhabit a West Village bubble financed by the sort of New York parents willing to finance their faux-grown up children’s love nests so long as they are also perpetually allowed to contribute their two cents.

The film begins with Daryl and Zoe knee-deep in a sexual act so lackluster that it not only alienates them from each other but also anyone remotely inclined to root for their relationship. In case we didn’t get it, the lousy sex is followed by a lousy breakfast, in which the two silently scan their phones while chewing their eggs with a mindless aggression bound to annoy the other. It should be a relief, then, when they sit down to chart their breakup — planning out which “days off” they will take from each other as they transition out of their bland little web — but even that conversation rankles. “We need to be together on Tuesday! That’s ‘Idol!’ ” they say as they high five.

Needless to say, the transition doesn’t go so smoothly, and both of them wrack up their fair share of hurt feelings while they overprocess not with their friends or siblings but with their parents and, worse, each other. Who are these overgrown kids, and why are we forced to watch their numbed-out, neurotic chit-chat? Perhaps their relationship should survive so that no one else — including us — is subjected to their glib whistling in the dark. As Cusack says in “High Fidelity,” another mediocre breakup movie: “Only people of a certain disposition are frightened of being alone for the rest of their lives at the age of 26.” In this plodding, plotting gimmick of a film, only Pablo Schreiber, as Zoe’s loutish rebound, and the rarely seen Andrea Martin, as Zoe’s oversharing mom, come off smelling like a rose.

03312010_TheGreatest1.jpgLike “Breaking Upwards,” “The Greatest” begins with an uncomfortably tight shot of young Bennett and Rose having sex. (Note to filmmakers: start elsewhere!) Just as we’re realizing it’s the 18-year-olds’ first time and that they’re in the throes of true love, we cut to a truck ramming into their car and then, just as quickly, to a hearse in which Bennett’s parents (Pierce Brosnan and Susan Sarandon) and brother (Johnny Simmons) sit in a silence so long and remarkable that it hints at what writer/director Shana Feste may be someday capable of sustaining. Just not yet.

To her credit, she does let the actors do their thing. Sarandon wrenches every living inch out of a woman so undone by grief that she doesn’t mind letting her husband and remaining son know that she just lost the only man that mattered to her, and, as her shell-shocked, formerly philandering husband, Brosnan’s usually hawkish manner is replaced by worried, rapidly blinking eyes and a slight stammer that doesn’t seem affected. Carey Mulligan (“An Education”) is as overly precious as ever, however, as Bennett’s girlfriend who postpones her Barnard scholarship to have her dead first lover’s baby. To be fair, she’s saddled with a setup that would sink far more genuine actresses than she.

And that’s the problem with this script, which forces its agenda with every clunky step. It’s not enough that Rose comes from an impoverished background; she has a con-artist of a mom who wobbles in and out of rehab. Just as one character suffers a potential heart attack, another falls off the wagon. And needless to say, Rose’s water breaks just when the family stages a massive confrontation with her at the roadside location of their son’s death. Enough.

03312010_TheGreatest4.jpgIn the press notes, Feste bemoans the dearth of films about families grappling with the loss of a child. It’s such a poorly researched assertion (one that an elementary Google search would have nipped in the bud) that it suggests she may not have watched enough films to make one of her own — a fact that this paint-by-numbers first feature, alas, bears out. Although she shows real talent in visually capturing the small, wicked failures of people facing their hardest moments, in her next project, she may be better off directing other people’s material or, realistically, directing for TV rather than film.


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.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

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:


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.


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!


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.


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.



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.