DID YOU READ

“Griff the Invisible,” reviewed

“Griff the Invisible,” reviewed (photo)

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Pity the indie superhero. He can’t afford big special effects or a badass car or a personal trainer to help him get big muscles. As a result, the superhero of indie movies is almost always a variation on the same guy, one who’s a lot cheaper to portray on a budget: the crazy dude with no powers who transforms himself into a comic book character as an outward manifestation of some sort of internal distress. Either he’s royally depressed (James Gunn’s “Super”), or hallucinating thanks to an experimental medication (Hal Haberman and Jeremy Passamore’s “Special”) or he’s a guy like the titular hero of “Griff the Invisible” who is… well, to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure what Griff’s problem is. And that, in turn, is the movie’s biggest problem.

Just who is Griff (beyond the fact that he’s played by “True Blood” hunk Ryan Kwanten)? At work, he’s a mild-mannered guy who frequently gets picked on by the office bully and mocked by his cruel co-workers. At night he dons a black rubber costume and prowls his neighborhood, stopping muggings and carjackings. When Griff admires himself in the mirror, his suit looks sleek and shiny. When he’s sitting in a police station being interrogated by an unimpressed cop, it looks cobbled together from crap he bought at a craft store. In other words, a big chunk of Griff’s extracurricular activities are figments of his imagination. But just how much?

It’s never quite clear. And it’s never quite clear, either, what exactly is the root cause of Griff’s behavior. Is he an oddball or a guy with undiagnosed, high-functioning autism? Should we laugh at his antics or pity him? Maybe things are even more serious than that. Given the fact that “Griff the Invisible” is largely told from Griff’s warped perspective, and the fact that the horrible abuse he endures for weeks would be stopped immediately in any real workplace, you could argue that the entire film is actually the paranoid delusion of a schizophrenic.

Griff’s brother Tim (Patrick Brammall) is definitely worried about him; he’s watched Griff’s weird behavior lose him jobs in the past and now it seems to be happening again. But Tim’s new girlfriend Melody (Maeve Dermody) is a bit quirky herself — her hobbies include trying to walk through walls — and she takes a liking to Griff’s moonlighting/daydreaming. Even as Tim tries to get his brother to quit the superhero routine, Melody sends him even deeper into it. These scenes are played as heartwarming and unconventional love story. But consider them if Griff is actually schizophrenic. That makes Melody the worst kind of enabler. Instead of trying to get him treated, she pushes him deeper into psychosis. She spraypaints a jumpsuit and tells Griff it makes him invisible, then sends him off into a dark, abandoned warehouse to go fight crime. Even if Griff’s just a strange guy, that strikes me as reckless behavior. What if there were real criminals in there?

I’m all for ambiguity in films, but it doesn’t feel like writer/director Leon Ford left Griff and his underlying issues vague on purpose. It seems more like he didn’t want to burden his quirky romantic comedy about two oddballs in love with the full psychological ramifications of his characters’ actions. That’s understandable to a certain extent, but ground-level indie superhero movies depends entirely on their realistic texture. This particular “What if superheroes existed in the real world?” story doesn’t feel real at all.

Dermody has a lot of screen presence and she makes the best of her role as a nerd’s dreamgirl, i.e. the gorgeous woman who’s into science and comic books and is so socially awkward she can’t land a normal guy. Kwanten has a sympathetic face, and a few moving scenes near the end of the film; he’s surely got a future as a romantic leading man. I guess it’s a nice message for the misfits of the world — and I include myself in that group — to see someone with eccentricities celebrated onscreen instead of vilified or mocked. But what if Griff’s problems aren’t just eccentricities? What if this guy needs some help? I’m not a doctor, but to me the symptoms are anything but invisible.

“Griff the Invisible” opens in limited release on Friday. If you see it, we want to know what you think of it. Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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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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