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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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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.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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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:

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.