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DID YOU READ

“Sympathy For Delicious,” Reviewed

“Sympathy For Delicious,” Reviewed (photo)

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A version of this review first appeared as part of our coverage of the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.

The Lord may work in mysterious ways; “Sympathy For Delicious” does not. The only thing that’s mysterious about this unsubtle film about the nature of healing and faith is the thought process behind the raft of bad decisions made by director/star Mark Ruffalo, a great actor making a disappointing directorial debut working from a script by his friend and co-star Christopher Thornton. Despite an intriguing premise taken to some unexpected places and some strong supporting performances, “Sympathy For Delicious” is a gangly mess of a movie.

Thornton plays Dean, a.k.a. Delicious D, a paraplegic DJ living on Skid Row. The night after an unsuccessful visit to a faith healer, Dean wakes up with a strange sensation in his hands and the ability to heal almost anyone with a single touch. Dean doesn’t know what to make of his newfound powers — and is furious that he can’t use them to repair his own injured spine — but Father Joe (Ruffalo), who runs a local soup kitchen, believes Dean’s healing touch is a gift from God. As Father Joe tries to convince Dean to use his power to help the people of Skid Row, Dean tries to convince the members of an up-and-coming rock band to hire him to be their DJ.

From there, the worlds of rock ‘n’ roll and religion begin to mix in some interesting ways, particularly in one very effective scene that shows Dean healing people as part of a full-on rock concert. But just when “Delicious” starts to approach something really interesting, it backs off. Instead of truly exploring the implications of a rock band with a faith healing stage show, it becomes a ludicrous and extremely abbreviated episode of “Behind The Music,” careening through Delicious D’s rise, fall, and redemption arc in a matter of minutes. Just about every rock star cliché gets thrown in: from the jealous frontman (Orlando Bloom) to the crass, manipulative band manager (Laura Linney). Some of these scenes border on the unintentionally comic; after their first big gig as a band, Linney, the unambiguous devil figure in this religious parable, stokes the group’s egos with lines like “You were like an angel! You had wings on your back. I could see your wings.” (Angel! Faith healing! Religion! etc.) She suggests they take the show on the road and call it “Healapalooza.” Though an sane band would instantly fire a manager for seriously pitching “Healapalooza,” these guys go along with it.

That Thornton has been paralyzed since a rock climbing accident nearly 20 years ago, and was inspired to write this story by his own experiences in the world of faith healing, gives the film an immediate hook. But it doesn’t excuse the flaws in his writing (Healapalooza? Really?) or the fact that amidst a cast of superior actors including Ruffalo, Bloom, and an effortlessly charming Juliette Lewis, he looks overmatched in the lead role. Ruffalo and Thornton, who are longtime friends, worked for 10 years to bring “Delicious” to the screen, which makes it the definition of a passion project. But maybe there was a bit too much passion in this case, too much thinking with the heart instead of the head. Maybe Ruffalo was so passionate about his friend’s screenplay that he was blind to its flaws, from its clumsy pacing to its ham-fisted dialogue.

The end result has good intentions and poor execution. There are parts worth watching, particularly Lewis’ undeniably charismatic performance as the one member of the band who encourages Dean to pursue his music, and a few of the scenes between Thornton and Ruffalo that hinge on the question of where charity ends and exploitation begins. But not enough to recommend the film. Still, a few moments are good enough to make you wonder what went wrong everywhere else. That’s moviemaking for you. It’s a mysterious process.

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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.