DID YOU READ

Adam Brody and Whit Stillman talk “Damsels in Distress” and dating losers

Adam Brody and Analeigh Tipton in "Damsels in Distress"

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By Jennifer Vineyard

It’s called “Damsels in Distress,” but Whit Stillman’s first movie in 14 years (like “Metropolitan,” “Barcelona,” and “The Last Days of Disco” before it) also has quite a few dudes in distress as well. This time, they are played by Adam Brody, Billy Magnusson, Ryan Metcalf, and Hugo Becker (best known for his role as Blaire Waldorf’s quasi husband on “Gossip Girl”).

“People were saying to me, ‘Oh my gosh! How did you get Prince Louis in your film?'” Stillman told IFC, laughing. “He has the same manager as I do, that’s how.”

“The part I’m playing is so different,” Becker enthused. “I’m really playing a bad guy. You’ll see. I’m an ass in the movie. I think some people will definitely hate me after this.”

Becker’s character, Xavier, was originally written as an American college student, but was changed to be a French man once he won the role, which makes his request for “Cathar love” seem all the more cosmopolitan. (Don’t know what “Cathar love” is? Stillman laughed, “Look it up.”)

“Xavier is supposed to be trying to save the girls from their troubles,” Stillman said, “but he does scabrous things, sort of. But he doesn’t like talking about it.”

Boys like Xavier contribute to a theory espoused by the lead character Violet (played by Greta Gerwig) — that falling for handsome and intelligent guy is a sure path to suicide. (Hence, her work at a suicide prevention center). Violet and her college friends try to date the less handsome (such as Metcalf’s Frank) or the less intelligent (such as Magnusson’s Thor), or as she puts it, the “frankly inferior,” but she still feels herself strangely drawn to the suave Charlie (played by Brody).

“Violet’s theory that you should date losers, that you shouldn’t date on your level is mostly a rationalization,” Brody said. “Whit Stillman doesn’t even actually subscribe to that theory himself, even though he’s had that idea repeated in other movies. But it is such a unique theory, because he’s literally championing the exact opposite of what every other movie tells you.”

For instance, once Violet realizes “Charlie” is actually Fred, and that he’s been telling lies to her friends about who he is and what he does for a living, she’s even more attracted to him, not less. “We’re told that lies are bad and that honesty is the best policy,” Brody said, “but that’s not actually the case. And this isn’t an instance of just telling a polite fib to protect someone’s feelings, or a little fib about your age. What Stillman is championing is reinvention, that you can present how you’d like to be seen. That my character invents his name and his job title is not the worst thing he could do, and Violet sees that as totally fine and even acceptable.”

By embodying many of Stillman’s recurring themes — as Chris Eigeman used to — Brody becomes a bit of the writer/director’s surrogate. In fact, Stillman hopes to pair the two actors in his next project. “I don’t know why he’s taken such a liking to me,” Brody said. “I’m flattered, but I don’t feel nearly as sharp as Chris Eigeman. I’m not worthy!”

Brody confessed to looking up the more mannered vocabulary in Stillman’s script, so he could play catch-up. (He was the last one cast and had little time to prep).

“I wanted to zip my tongue around it, so I looked up decadence, dandyism, sublimation, as it relates to literature,” he said.

That’s because his character Fred proposes that the topic of his paper will be “The Decline of Decadence”: “Take the flit movement in literature, or homosexuality. It’s gone completely downhill. Right down the tubes. Before, homosexuality was something refined, hidden, sublimated, aspiring to be the highest forms of expression and often achieving them. Now it just seems to be a lot of muscle-bound morons running around in T-shirts. It’s pretty disillusioning.” Violet then asks him, “Are you gay?” “Not especially, but in another era, it would have had more appeal. Now, I just don’t see the point,” he tells her.

“I even asked Whit for a reading list,” Brody said. “Some of the stories I had read before: Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop, Tolstoy’s Childhood, Boyhood, and Youth, Jane Austen’s Persuasion. I felt like I was going to college, though, and I was inspired to read even more. I was expecting to have all these discussions with Whit like my character does in the movie, and none of that happened. I mean, we had some later, but not on the shoot. There was no time. But it wasn’t necessary to understand all of his philosophical musings to play the part. He’s just operating on a much higher level.”

Despite the discussions of homosexuality and sodomy in the script, Brody said everything on and off set was kept very “chaste” — no cursing allowed. “When Whit found out I was doing [the “Deep Throat” movie] Lovelace, he said, ‘Oh no. I hope you’re not doing any nudity,'” the actor said. “Yes, he just wrote a movie that has anal sex, but that’s a ruse — it’s more a quest for a higher spirituality, if that’s possible.”

Brody compared “Damsels” to “The Last Days of Disco,” “when you had a character doing coke and sleeping with a stripper”: “Yes, there’s a club scene, and it’s a sexually charged atmosphere with drugs everywhere, but they have a philosophical discussion. They’re relentlessly upwardly mobile.”

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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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