DID YOU READ

“Martha Marcy May Marlene,” reviewed

“Martha Marcy May Marlene,” reviewed (photo)

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Early one morning, Martha (Elizabeth Olsen) wakes before the rest of her fellow members of an unnamed cult, and runs off into the woods around the dilapidated farmhouse where they all live. She stops to eat at a coffee shop somewhere, and one of the men from the cult (Brady Corbett) catches up with her. He comes in and sits across from her at a booth, and encourages her to return with him. Then he eats her food without asking permission and leaves. He doesn’t threaten Martha, who he calls Marcy May. He doesn’t have to. Even after Martha physically escapes, she’s still mentally trapped back on that farm.

It’s that sad and disturbing fact that lends “Martha Marcy May Marlene” its unsettling power. The details about this cult — its horrifically abusive initiations and peculiar daily rituals — are all important and interesting, and they’re certainly a very marketable hook for a movie with a first-time director and few recognizable actors. But this movie is really a character study of a deeply troubled girl who discovers that once you’ve lost your identity it’s almost impossible to find it again.

Martha is rescued from a bus stop by her sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson) and taken to the lake house where she is vacationing with her husband Ted (Hugh Dancy). There’s no evidence that anyone from the cult has followed her or has any idea where she is. For all intents and purposes, Martha is free and safe. If only she could convince herself of that fact. When sounds or images remind Martha of things that happened to her on the farm, the film drags her back there for prolonged, painful flashbacks. A noise from the lake house roof may trigger a return to one of the cult’s home invasions, where they’d toss stones at houses in the middle of the night to see if anyone stirred before they broke in. Writer/director Sean Durkin shoots the lake house and farm to look almost identical, which often makes us feel as disoriented as Martha. It’s just one of the many ways Durkin and his editor, Zachary Stuart-Pontier, put us inside their heroine’s tortured headspace.

Durkin’s screenplay is sparse and exposition is minimal; again, the better to disorient us and help us to understand Martha’s confused perspective. And as the subject of all this confusion, Olsen is fantastic. The worse the character unravels, the better Olsen’s performance gets. She pulls off a very difficult feat here: she manages to be simultaneously sympathetic and also kind of unlikable. As a member of the cult, Martha makes some horrible choices. Back with her family, she remains aloof and even cruel, even as Lucy and Ted try everything they can think of to make her feel welcome.

Though Olsen is the undeniable standout, the rest of the cast is very strong as well, with Paulson and Dancy striking just the right notes of concern and exasperation, and John Hawkes oozing equal amounts of charm and menace as the leader of the cult. The twin timelines build to a crescendo of violence and madness that caps off the only way this story really can, with even more uncertainty. That could be frustrating if “Martha Marcy May Marlene” weren’t
ultimately about putting the viewer inside the mindset of someone made a prisoner by their own memories. Durkin’s brilliant final shot ensures we’re held captive by our own dark thoughts long after we leave the theater.

“Martha Marcy May Marlene” is now playing in limited release. If you see it, let us know what you think. Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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Bro and Tell

BFFs And Night Court For Sports

Bromance and Comeuppance On Two New Comedy Crib Series

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“Silicon Valley meets Girls meets black male educators with lots of unrealized potential.”

That’s how Carl Foreman Jr. and Anthony Gaskins categorize their new series Frank and Lamar which joins Joe Schiappa’s Sport Court in the latest wave of new series available now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. To better acquaint you with the newbies, we went right to the creators for their candid POVs. And they did not disappoint. Here are snippets of their interviews:

Frank and Lamar

via GIPHY

IFC: How would you describe Frank and Lamar to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Carl: Best bros from college live and work together teaching at a fancy Manhattan private school, valiantly trying to transition into a more mature phase of personal and professional life while clinging to their boyish ways.

IFC: And to a friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Carl: The same way, slightly less coherent.

Anthony: I’d probably speak about it with much louder volume, due to the bar which would probably be playing the new Kendrick Lamar album. I might also include additional jokes about Carl, or unrelated political tangents.

Carl: He really delights in randomly slandering me for no reason. I get him back though. Our rapport on the page, screen, and in real life, comes out of a lot of that back and forth.

IFC: In what way is Frank and Lamar a poignant series for this moment in time?
Carl: It tells a story I feel most people aren’t familiar with, having young black males teach in a very affluent white world, while never making it expressly about that either. Then in tackling their personal lives, we see these three-dimensional guys navigate a pivotal moment in time from a perspective I feel mainstream audiences tend not to see portrayed.

Anthony: I feel like Frank and Lamar continues to push the envelope within the genre by presenting interesting and non stereotypical content about people of color. The fact that this show brought together so many talented creative people, from the cast and crew to the producers, who believe in the project, makes the work that much more intentional and truthful. I also think it’s pretty incredible that we got to employ many of our friends!

Sport Court

Sport Court gavel

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Joe: SPORT COURT follows Judge David Linda, a circuit court judge assigned to handle an ad hoc courtroom put together to prosecute rowdy fan behavior in the basement of the Hartford Ultradome. Think an updated Night Court.

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Joe: Remember when you put those firecrackers down that guy’s pants at the baseball game? It’s about a judge who works in a court in the stadium that puts you in jail right then and there. I know, you actually did spend the night in jail, but imagine you went to court right that second and didn’t have to get your brother to take off work from GameStop to take you to your hearing.

IFC: Is there a method to your madness when coming up with sports fan faux pas?
Joe: I just think of the worst things that would ruin a sporting event for everyone. Peeing in the slushy machine in open view of a crowd seemed like a good one.

IFC: Honestly now, how many of the fan transgressions are things you’ve done or thought about doing?
Joe: I’ve thought about ripping out a whole row of chairs at a theater or stadium, so I would have my own private space. I like to think of that really whenever I have to sit crammed next to lots of people. Imagine the leg room!

Check out the full seasons of Frank and Lamar and Sport Court now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”


Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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GIFS via Giphy

On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”


But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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