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You always adapt the ones you love.

You always adapt the ones you love. (photo)

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Is David Foster Wallace really as adaptation-proof as everyone’s always said? The mediocre reviews for John Krasinski’s “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men” aren’t exactly encouraging on that front. At the Guardian, Danny Leigh believes that the film’s problems lie partially in the book Krasinski chose, a short story collection that’s no place for novices to start, and the fact that turning it into a very literal adaptation (boiled down into condensed monologues) “risks presenting this most fiercely empathetic writer as somehow akin to the smug, tin-eared misanthropy of Neil LaBute.” He suggests Wallace’s hyper-verbal prose would best be served by being adapted imaginatively, springboarding off the plots rather than the language.

The truth, I think, is that DFW belongs firmly on the page rather than on-screen. It’s not that his work lacks for strong comic dialogue, just that what the language is actually doing is mapping out thought processes and internal struggles in a way that rob actors of their work. Mining the books for their plots seems kind of pointless. That said, as a fervent DFK fan, Krasinski’s film does work for me on several levels. It’s nicely filmed and has a free-floating structure reminiscent, at times, of Roy Andersson, even if ultimately the spark of the thing doesn’t get conveyed.

Most of all, “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men” is a doomed, defiantly uncommercial act of homage that anyone immersed in DFW’s work should find moving for the intensity of reverence Krasinski shows. In some ways, the expansions he brings act as successful annotations of the book. By grounding the monologues in the context of a grad student’s study, Krasinski reminds us how deeply Wallace (who completed not one but two senior theses, and who brought the academic footnote/endnote along with him to his work) was immersed in campus life — something implicit but almost never stated in his work.

While many of the monologues are clear acting 101 exercises, a few highlight often-forgotten traits in DFW’s work. See Bobby Cannavale as a man with one arm who exploits his ostensible weakness as a way to get women to pity and sleep with him; Cannavale (possibly our finest embodier of loud-talking mooks) absolutely nails Wallace’s oft-overlooked sensitivity and feel for the saltier kinds of lower-class vernacular. Then there’s Frankie Faison’s furious speech about his father’s career as a bathroom attendant. The staging’s a little wonky (bringing Faison into the imagined space of his father’s career brings about inadvertent flashbacks to “The Shining”‘s Overlook Hotel), but Faison’s delivery salvages it and reminds us that Wallace was as keenly attuned to the decidedly non-post-racial dynamics of white-black interaction in America. People focus on Wallace’s emphasis on depression and upper-middle-class white problems to an absurd degree; Krasinski reminds us how many voices are knocking around in there. As a movie, it may be a mess, but as a kind of cinematic marginalia for fans, it’s totally worthwhile.

[Photo: “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men,” IFC Films, 2009]

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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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