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Tribeca 2011: “A Quiet Life,” Reviewed

Tribeca 2011: “A Quiet Life,” Reviewed (photo)

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As loathe as I am to think of most American remakes of perfectly good foreign films, I couldn’t help but wonder while watching “A Quiet Life” whether Robert De Niro has had a chance to check out the film playing the festival he founded. Ironically, in this hypothetical remake De Niro would produce and star in, the actor would replace the one thing irreplaceable about this Italian thriller as currently constructed, which is a great performance from Toni Servillo, who continues with every role since his turn as Giulio Andreotti in “Il Divo” a few years to prove what a remarkable transformation he achieved.

In “A Quiet Life,” transformation isn’t only required of Servillo as an actor, but also as the character of Rosario Russo, an Italian chef living in a small German village where he’s been settled down for the past 13 years with a wife and young son. He has a temper; his kitchen etiquette suggests he’s gone through more than a few sous chefs over the near-decade-and-a-half, but otherwise, he’s content and even suspiciously encouraged when he sees two thuggish-looking men kicking around a soccer ball in front of his restaurant. Slowly, director Claudio Cupellini teases out why Rosario’s excited to see the more even-tempered of the two men and instantly offers to them both to “stay as long as you’d like” in his accompanying hotel.

Without spoiling what that reason is, it turns out to be a case where time opens more wounds than it heals and as the two younger men with crime connections begin to embarrass Rosario in public, it becomes obvious that the chef wouldn’t enjoy additional scrutiny. This is the point where Mr. De Niro’s ears should be burning because the crux of “A Quiet Life,” which follows the well-worn path of most films involving a character attempting to run from their past, depends on Rosario’s willingness to impose a cloistered existence that he chose specifically for himself onto those closest to him and how he deals with the problems that arise in a way that won’t affect his tenuous grip on the domestic life he’s come to enjoy.

If it sounds like a juicy part, it certainly is and while Servillo gets a chance to shine, the film isn’t nearly as exciting to watch despite its director’s attempts to spice things up aurally and visually with a soundtrack that sporadically spikes the film with a sharp cue or the scattered tracking shots that are impressive individually but feel out of sync in context. (A single take starting with a closeup of one of the younger men smoking that leads to a crane shot-overview of the entire neighborhood is well-done if completely unnecessary.) A case could be made that these occasional injections of cinematic bravado reflect Rosario’s suppressed natural inclinations, but I suspect that wasn’t the intention.

Ultimately, that uneven quality is what makes “A Quiet Life” feel slightly frustrating, even if it’s that rare thriller that derives its jolts from the twitch of an eyebrow since Cupellini gives Servillo an opportunity to play a more nuanced role than he’s typically allowed and obviously prizes character development above all else. When “A Quiet Life” stumbles towards its conclusion rather than glides in the way it deserves, like Rosario, the film seems as if it’s ever so close to perfection and yet falls just short of the standard it sets for itself, resulting in a film that’s good but could’ve been great.

“A Quiet Life” currently has no U.S. distribution, but will play at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 23rd and 24th.

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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