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Dermot Mulroney Takes Time to Exhale After “Inhale”

Dermot Mulroney Takes Time to Exhale After “Inhale” (photo)

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Nearly halfway through talking to Dermot Mulroney I asked about an indie film he made last year, though I struggled to remember the name. “‘The Family Tree’?” he said, while watching me squirm. Yeah, that’s the one. “I don’t know whether that hit the theater, maybe for a week here or there. I know it was at the Seattle Film Festival.”

“Really?” I wondered, thinking that I would’ve at least heard if the film co-starring Hope Davis and Christina Hendricks had been in theaters already. (It’s only played the festival circuit so far.)

“If that sees the light of day, I’d bet you enjoy it,” Mulroney assures me. “It’s definitely got some laughs in it.”

Uncertainty is not a feeling usually associated with the work of Mulroney, whose ability to exude a cool confidence has made him a go-to guy for Hollywood romantic comedies and auteurs such as the late Robert Altman, David Fincher and Alexander Payne. But in recent years, it has crept into how his work is presented. That’s why audiences may only be slightly more familiar with his latest film “Inhale,” which came and went from theaters last month.

Mulroney’s clearly proud of the thriller, in which he stars as an assistant district attorney who must question his principles when the only way he can save his daughter’s life is through an illegal lung transplant across the border. However, he’s also well aware that even with a cast of recognizable actors such as himself, Sam Shepard, Diane Kruger and Rosanna Arquette in a solid race-against-the-clock potboiler, “Inhale” is exactly the type of film that could easily slip into the void created by a shrinking industry and a wider array of film options where indies have trouble getting attention and distributors are less willing to take risks.

So there’s both notes of excitement and incredulity in Mulroney’s voice when he exclaims, “It’s doing really well on VOD,” which is where it can currently be seen through IFC Films On Demand [a corporate sibling of IFC.com]. As he acknowledges below, the realization that theatrical is just one of many different platforms is something that’s taken some time to adjust to and as a result, our conversation is as much about the state of the mid-level indie film as it is about his performance in “Inhale.”

12022010_DermotMulroneyInhale2.jpgWith this new world of how movies go out into the world, does it change your attitude towards the work?

That’s a great question. I think it just now did. I learned from the way IFC Films released “Inhale,” because the movie had sat for a while because it’s very grim and hard to promote. What I learned is that IFC Films wants as much to release it in the theater as it wants to use the theater release to platform where it’s actually going to make some of its money back, which is on the video on demand at home. So that went off like a light bulb for me. They didn’t intend necessarily to have this film grow in theaters and then open it in Chicago, then Dallas, and then Pittsburgh, which is what the old scenario used to be. I don’t think that’s ever going to happen again. If it does, it’ll be because people revert to it purposefully.

Consequently, the stigma — that’s a strong term — of doing a movie that doesn’t go into the theater is gone because everybody’s equal. I’ve done 55, 60 movies maybe, and until now, one of those didn’t get released in a theater. And that was back at a time when that was like ouch, someone’s going to find out that movie wasn’t good enough to earn a release in a theater. Now, half of the movies made don’t go out and if they do, they go out like “Inhale” did — two theaters, one in each city, New York and Los Angeles, and they close after a week. So it’s a whole new world. And I can make decisions differently now. In other words, I can take movies without having to worry about whether they’re going to be successful in the box office because there’s so many other outlets.

You were also in “Jolene,” which sat on the shelf awhile before it got a release this summer, but it seems like more people will find it at Blockbuster.

I hate to say it, but I think what happened is, especially independent financiers, not smaller film production companies that had their own money, but the guys that come in with cash out of their pocket to try and make a movie, I think that they all got used up. I think that they all finally learned that making a mid-range to low-budget movie is the wrong way to invest your money. [laughs] The secret got out. We’ve been doing it for 20 years and these guys just kept coming back with more money. But I think now it’s clear that’s why people aren’t willing to risk their money as much and the ones that had been risking their money learned that it’s a very, very tough risk.

12022010_DermotMulroneyInhale3.jpgSpecific to this film, the American cut was different that the international cut. Does that affect how you feel about your performance?

This is what happened with that precisely. It was written and shot to happen in chronological order and they had a delivery date for one of their European releases. I think it was Germany that in order to get the pre-sale money on the German release, they gave them that, presuming that it would remain that cut. If anything, they’d tweak it while they’re still looking for a U.S. distributor. Nobody took it. It’s already shown in Germany because they had a delivery date. So it’s really the first cut. So they went back in and recut it to see if that made it more appealing to domestic distributors. And it’s a better movie because it’s cooler – all the same content. They just shuffled the deck.

That would probably be the first time anyone’s ever said an American cut was cooler than the European version. Have you been in other films that had multiple versions?

No, I don’t recall that ever really happening. I’ve seen both cuts of this and I think the non-chronological version, the U.S. version, is marginally more interesting, but I don’t think they changed performance takes. It’s the same movie.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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-Craft

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?”

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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).

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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.

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