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“Old Joy.”

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"Sorrow is nothing but worn out joy."
So many films are adapted from novels that it becomes easy to equate the two, when the fact is the average feature buckles under the weight of a novel’s worth of plot and characters. Kelly Reichardt‘s slight, splendid "Old Joy" is actually based on a short story by Jonathan Raymond, but it has a reflective and uniquely cinematic quality that doesn’t seem to arise from any literary tradition at all. The minimal events that move the film from start to finish are surrounded by a wealth of subtext we’re left to sift through, and our understanding of and empathy for the two characters emerges largely from what remains unsaid and what we infer during the contemplative silences inherent to any road trip.

In other words, nothing much happens. That’s not a criticism — the film accomplishes more in its subdued 76 minutes than others have with casts of dozens and globe-spanning sets. Mark (Daniel London) lives in Portland with his pregnant girlfriend. He gets a call from Kurt (musician Will Oldham), a friend he hasn’t seen in a while, who invites him to go to the mountains to visit hot springs (Mark ends up having to drive). The two get a little lost and end up camping by the side of the road. The next day, they find the springs. They sit in the water for a while. They go home.

Mark works and listens to talk radio, and isn’t sure what will happen if his wife has to stop working post-baby: they will "do whatever is it people do." Kurt smokes pot constantly, seems to be spending his life drifting from couch to couch, and uses words like "transformative" and "otherworldly" in freely in conversation, a habit that’s at first irritating, and later almost endearing. Mark was clearly hoping for a weekend escape with a still-carefree buddy, but too much time has passed, and the two can’t connect in conversation. In exchanges punctuated by long shots of the road going by that recall "Goodbye, South, Goodbye," each detects criticism, intended or not, in the other, and while Mark retreats to passive-aggression and a sense of superiority, Kurt bleats miserably "I want us to be real friends again — there’s something between us, and it won’t go away."

It doesn’t go away, something Kurt, at least, comes to realize, but the revelation that friendship often adds up to nothing more than a dusty collection of shared experiences is hardly the saddest to be tucked away in the momentary peace found out in the quiet green sanctity of the pair’s eventual destination. There, too, is a dirge for liberal idealism, which in the modern America Reichardt captures so sharply has become something to be put away with other childish things. The film doesn’t smile on Kurt’s heedless neo-hippie lifestyle, but in the end he is undeniably the tragic figure, adrift alone, all his friends hurrying home to do whatever is it people do, and to dream of the occasional weekend away.

"Old Joy" opens in New York today.

+ "Old Joy" (Kino)

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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