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DID YOU READ

“A Better Life,” Reviewed

“A Better Life,” Reviewed (photo)

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It shouldn’t be a consideration while watching “A Better Life” that it came into being as a form of payback for Chris Weitz, who last directed “Twilight: New Moon” for Summit Entertainment and was rewarded with a greenlight for that all-too-rare creature these days – the studio film for adults. But it has to be since it isn’t just the filmmaker who’s allowed to enjoy telling a story closer to his own heart, but the audience who benefits the most.

If “A Better Life” has a fault, it may be that it isn’t adult enough, that its story of an illegal immigrant (Demian Bichir) whose been toiling out as a gardener on the lawns of the rich in Los Angeles to make ends meet is a bit too simple, though that would be ignoring its elegance. Carlos, the gardener, is beyond reproach, though life has been unquestionably unfair to him. His wife passed away, leaving him to take care their now-teenage son Luis (José Julián), while the lawyer who promised him immigration papers has left him broke. Things begin to look up when his boss offers Carlos his truck, so he can retire to a farm, but it’ll come at a cost of $12,000, which would be unthinkable except for a possible loan from his sister, who can also ill afford it.

ABetterLife2_06242011.jpgThrough it all, Bichir is never any less stoic than Gregory Peck, nor is Carlos any less principled than Moses, with obstacle after obstacle testing his resolve in such succession that “A Better Life” would strain credibility if it weren’t so tender and well-executed. In some ways, a remake of Vittorio De Sica’s “Bicycle Thieves” reimagined as a thriller, the film takes off once Carlos is joined by Luis after the former is robbed and must track down the thief, an exercise that leads to the fringes of South Central and brings the father and son together to a proximity they haven’t shared since the boy was an infant. Luis, all but orphaned by his father’s endless days at work, has gravitated towards the gangs that rule his school without actually joining one, but now is at the age where he must either be with them or against them.

Aided by a soaring score from Alexandre Desplat (“The Tree of Life”), Weitz elevates the story to near-epic levels, imagining Los Angeles as a land vast enough for ample opportunity and endless swaths of treacherous terrain. After once proving his strength at capturing an unorthodox father-son relationship in “About a Boy,” Weitz’s real achievement with “A Better Life” is teasing out the suspense of not only Carlos and Luis’ fractured relationship, but of the journey that they’re on together that’s fraught with all the uncertainty of being in a place they never can really call home. Every time they speak to a stranger, there’s the possibility for misinterpretation and every encounter with a police officer is a chance to be deported.

Even if the story itself is broad, streamlined for maximized emotional potency as it was in the days of De Sica, “A Better Life” is rich enough with detail to be immune to false moments, whether it’s between Bichir and Julián, whose characters gradually let their guard down as they feel each other out, or in the scenes that push the mystery forward through crowded apartments, chop shops and rodeos. With its story of struggle, “A Better Life” may not entirely live up to its title in a literal sense, but it’s a better movie than we’ve come to expect.

“A Better Life” opens in limited release on June 24th.

Will you want to see “A Better Life”? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter or Facebook.

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Final Countdown

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 IFC.com

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Rev Up

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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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…