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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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.