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“The Square” and “Everyone Else”

“The Square” and “Everyone Else” (photo)

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Originality can be overrated. Nash Edgerton‘s Aussie thriller “The Square” doesn’t really have an original bone in its body, and I’m not sure it needs to. It belongs to that well-worn noir subgenre of adulterous lovers attempting to make a break for it — “Blood Simple” is an obvious influence — but Edgerton eschews the stylized aggressiveness of earlier films for something more lived-in, if not exactly realistic.

By the end of the opening scene, in which we see Ray (David Roberts) and Carla (Claire van der Boom), both married (though not to each other) making love inside one car while their dogs watch from another, you can probably guess much of the rest of the plot. Ray is stuck in a bland suburban marriage, while Carla is stuck in a decidedly bleaker working-class arrangement: She suspects that her roughneck husband Smithy (Anthony Hayes) might actually be up to no good, as evidenced by the duffel bag full of cash stashed in the attic. Carla suggests to Ray that they take the money, burn her house down, and live happily ever after. And away we go — as we’ve done so many times before.

And yet…”The Square” works. For starters, Edgerton, a former stuntman, has genuine filmmaking chops. He can build tension up to almost comical levels, but he also has an eye for more offbeat moments. A scene where the arsonist, perched atop a hill, looks out over the small community of buildings laid out before him and sees his handiwork burning in the distance has a truly haunting quality.

But there’s also a pointed everydayness to the film that resists the mythic overtures of genre (witness those dogs in the opening scene), resulting in something a lot more riveting than the umpteenth iteration of this familiar set-up would suggest. It makes sense that our lovers’ scheme has little to do with killing Smithy (no postmen need ring here, thanks) and more with just taking his dough. Even so, Ray is in way over his head and knows it — indeed, he initially resists Carla’s conspiring by correctly suggesting that he’s not the kind of guy who does things like ransack people’s houses.

To his eternal credit, Edgerton (who collaborated here with his brother Joel, who co-wrote and co-stars in the film) doesn’t seem interested in watching a well-executed plan go gradually off the rails. Rather, the whole thing starts off a mess and quickly gets worse.

04072010_SquareEdgerton3.jpgThis is less a thriller of adultery than a kind of surreal nightmare, where the central attraction isn’t the slow tightening of the noose but the snowballing clusterfuckery of our outmatched hero’s predicament — more “After Hours” than “Double Indemnity.”

True, the pleasures of this subgenre have often come from watching good men go bad, and Ray goes bad with the best of them. But even towards the end, as the bodies and the plot turns predictably pile up, we’re still basically with him. His soul may be corrupted, but we can still see the bewildered suburban schlub who stumbled into this mess lurking just beneath the surface. His total inadequacy gives the film a strange energy all its own.

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

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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