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Toronto 2009: “Chloe” is Heated, “Whip It” Whips It Good

Toronto 2009: “Chloe” is Heated, “Whip It” Whips It Good (photo)

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Some may disagree, but I think there’s something pretty cool about Toronto’s mayor David Miller coming out to declare how proud he is of Atom Egoyan’s new erotic thriller “Chloe.” Of course, Miller was more likely taking pride in the depiction of his fair city than the film itself, which opens with Amanda Seyfried putting on a lacy black brassiere and never looks back. Egoyan has never shied away from the erotic — it’s the thrills part that has eluded his work for mainstream audiences, and when we meet Catherine (Julianne Moore) at the start of “Chloe,” she, too, is dissatisfied.

As a locally prestigious gynecologist, Catherine is smart and sophisticated, but in a foretelling scene, she informs a patient that orgasms are “just a series of muscle contractions.” When her husband (Liam Neeson) fails to return home for a surprise birthday party she has planned for him, Catherine begins to suspect he might be having an affair. The clues start mounting, to the point that when Catherine discovers the titular prostitute (Amanda Seyfried) in a posh restaurant’s bathroom stall sobbing, she senses an opportunity to confirm her suspicions about her husband’s fidelity.

In the relationship between Moore and Seyfried, Egoyan also senses an opportunity to do his usual probing of human interaction — Seyfried’s Chloe describes her dates with Catherine’s husband as if she’s giving a science report, except the testimony is sexually frank and even in monotone, she starts to turn Catherine on. What follows shouldn’t be spoiled, though the film is a remake of Anne Fontaine’s 2004 French film “Nathalie,” and amazingly, Egoyan pulls off scenes that might make Parisians blush. Catherine’s reluctant interest in her husband’s extramarital affairs spirals into something completely different and overwhelming. It’s actually the first of Egoyan’s features that he hasn’t written himself, but he found a natural partner in Erin Cressida Wilson, who straddled similarly lurid territory with her script for “Secretary” and develops two female characters as strong as Maggie Gyllenhaal’s Lee Holloway for Moore and Seyfried to play.

For a film about strange bedfellows, it was only appropriate that “Chloe” producer Ivan Reitman explained his involvement before introducing Egoyan, who confided “I’m incredibly nervous” — this was the first world premiere he’s had at Toronto since the debut of his first feature “Next of Kin.” Reitman told the crowd that he had seen “Nathalie” in the same theater (Roy Thomson Hall) four years earlier and took to “the wonderful central idea,” but thought “there’s a lot more that could be done with this.” He soon recruited Egoyan to make the film after “coming to my senses” about possibly taking a crack at the thriller himself, and the result is a film reminiscent of another Canadian — David Cronenberg, who was able with “A History of Violence” to make a film that adhered to his previous work but could enlist new fans.

09142009_whipit5.jpgFun of a more wholesome variety could be found at the Ryerson Theater, where “Whip It” premiered. After a roller derby demonstration earlier in the day, members of the Toronto Roller Derby League came by to greet the ticket line with high fives as the crowds made their way into the theater. Drew Barrymore, visibly shaking during the film’s introduction, looked like a queen bee in a yellow and black dress as she introduced her directorial debut, explaining that she put everything from her life in “a piggy bank and I crashed it all over the floor for this film.”

If Barrymore was nervous about the film’s reception, she needn’t have been. Considering the excitement in the room, it probably wouldn’t have mattered if “Whip It” was any good, but it’s as confident a directorial debut as you’ll find. Ellen Page stars as Bliss Cavandar, a Texas teen tired of spending weekends competing in beauty pageants to indulge her mother (Marcia Gay Harden) and serving up “Squealers” (one of those huge burgers you have to eat in under three minutes) as a waitress at the Oink Joint. When she takes a rare adventure out of her small town of Bodeen to buy boots, a group of turquoise-haired roller derby girls come bounding in with fliers for an exhibition match. Soon enough, Bliss is transformed into Babe Ruthless, a rising star of the circuit who makes up for her diminutive size with her speed. She also finds kindred spirits in her teammates (Barrymore, Kristen Wiig, Zoe Bell and Eve, among others), though the divide between Bliss and her real family continues to grow.

It’s not difficult to see where all of this is going, but Barrymore isn’t reinventing the wheel with “Whip It,” nor is she ever left spinning them, either. Like the smartest actors-turned-directors, she’s called in a number of favors and surrounded herself with some of the best in the business behind the camera — Wes Anderson’s cinematographer Robert Yeoman lenses the film and frequent Paul Thomas Anderson editor Dylan Tichenor, whom Barrymore dubs “Final Slut Pro” in the closing credits, give “Whip It” first-class production values. And although the film is clearly a personal story from first-time screenwriter Shauna Cross, it comes bursting at the seams as an extension of Barrymore’s infectiously bubbly personality, overstuffed with hip music, food fights and hard-hitting roller derby footage.

[Additional photo: “Whip It,” Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2009]

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Give Back

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

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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