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Jennifer Aniston, Rorschach blot.

Jennifer Aniston, Rorschach blot. (photo)

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Jennifer Aniston may not be the most obvious topic for a think piece, but the UK release of “Love Happens” has inspired a few fascinating ones. In the Independent, Ben Walsh defends her as “the most gifted American comic actress of her generation.” In the Guardian, David Cox muses on the irony that Aniston — our most famously frequently dumped A-list celeb — cranks out movies “fueling the furnace that’s consumed her own romantic hopes”; he accuses her of peddling romantic daydreams when she should know better. In both cases, the writers fixate on Aniston as emblematic of everything wrong with recent romantic comedies.

Aniston’s been trapped for a while now in the undignified position of being a poor woman’s Sandra Bullock. Her own movies aren’t any worse (see “All About Steve”), but when they do well at the box office, their success never seems to be particularly attributed to her. But it’s the idea that Aniston’s real-life romantic dramas (and failures) somehow enhance and complicate her on-screen persona that’s the real kicker.

Here we have two writers suggesting that — in the absence of anything to say about the movies themselves — we should contemplate Aniston’s rom-coms through the lens of her public life and speculate on the clash between what we know about her and the characters she plays over and over again. Which is really just college dorm room stoner logic — as if our understanding of Aniston, filtered through gossip magazines and publicist-monitored interviews, were any more solid than what we see of her on screen.

The most reliable box-office draws for rom-coms in the past decade have been leading men coasting on their charm (Hugh Grant, Matthew McConaughey) rather than the leading women they’re paired with, but you don’t see anyone suggesting that every time you watch Grant suppress his obvious self-loathing and spit out another adorable British neuroticism, you should be thinking about him picking up a hooker in Hollywood.

Maybe Aniston’s best understood as a blank-but-not-boring Rorschach test, an ink blot into which journalists and audiences can read what they choose. Which is something — you’d never see anyone bothering to do a close read of Meg Ryan.

[Photo: “Love Happens,” Universal Pictures, 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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