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“Cashback” (photo)

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“Cashback” ends with its hero, a dreamy art school student named Ben, telling the audience in voiceover, “Once upon a time, I wanted to know what love was. You just have to see that it’s wrapped in beauty and hidden away in between the seconds of your life. If you don’t stop for a minute, you might miss it.” Ben — and maybe “Cashback” writer/director Sean Ellis — has seen “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” so many times he’s begun claiming its insights as his own.

There are a few moments of truth in “Cashback,” but those, like that final farewell, are all cribbed from other movies and television shows. Ben’s idealized erotic fantasies, and its gallery finale, come straight out of Terry Zwigoff’s superior “Art School Confidential.” His time-wasting tomfoolery at his dead-end job reeks of Kevin Smith’s “Clerks.” Even his ability to stop time and rearrange the details of his life while everyone around him remains frozen isn’t original: anyone else remember Zack Morris’ use of the phrase “Time out!” on “Saved by the Bell”? Maybe Ellis didn’t mean to take these elements. Maybe he’s never seen “Art School Confidential” or “Clerks.” But that doesn’t make it any less unoriginal.

The one truly unique wrinkle on all this stuff isn’t something to be proud of either. A bad break-up leaves Ben (Sean Biggerstaff) crippled by unconquerable insomnia, leading him to start taking nightshifts at a local supermarket, where he passes the time, somewhat counter-intuitively, by literally stopping it for hours on end. Then he undresses the helpless female shoppers and sketches their naked bodies. Ellis presents this violation as the height of artistic beauty, with slow, graceful pans across the women’s bare breasts (though rarely over their blank, mannequin faces) and twinkling music that implies that Ben’s peeping is something pure rather than something skeezy. “Cashback” actually plays sexual assault for romance (it plays it for comedy later, too).

Do college students fantasize about women? Of course. Is that wrong? Not necessarily, though Ben’s might be, particularly if, as Ellis emphasizes throughout, he isn’t really fantasizing about undressing women but actually doing it, without their consent. That’s not beautiful — that’s demeaning, not to mention illegal.

Ben is never presented as a sleazebag (not to mention a philosophical plagiarist). If Ellis disagrees with Ben, or finds his actions unsavory in any way, he never shows it. Instead he uses all of the technical skills at his command — and this young filmmaker has plenty of them — to valorize his behavior. Ben stole Ferris Bueller’s philosophy, but not his sense of humor or honor. Without those traits, he’s just a jerk and a perv.

“Cashback” opens in limited release on July 20th (official site).

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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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