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“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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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.


IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.



IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on and the IFC app.

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