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“Lord Byron,” reviewed

“Lord Byron,” reviewed (photo)

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Reviewed at the New Orleans Film Festival.

The full title card of this movie reads “Lord Byron: Based on a True Story.” Quite a ‘true’ story: a pot-smoking, do-nothing ladies man on a journey of self-discovery, surrounded by a cast of eccentrics including a coke-snorting playright, a nutjob survivalist, and a penny-pinching lottery winner. One suspects “Lord Byron” is a true story in the same way the Coen Brothers’ “Fargo” is; in other words, not at all. The disclaimer might be a joke, or a fake-out, or an all-purpose expectation up-ender.

Maybe it would be more accurate to say “Lord Byron” is based on truth. The characters are all played by non-professional actors, the dialogue is improvised, and the locations all appear to be real (and really messy) apartments and houses. Atop that essentially factual (or factualish) framework writer/director Zack Godshall places an suspiciously fanciful tale full of coincidence and revelation.

It’s a decidedly strange mix. Early scenes could almost be mistaken for documentary, if not for an ever-present voiceover provided by the title character (Paul Batiste, a barber by trade). Byron spends his day mooching off his ex-wife, getting laid, waiting for his girlfriends to get off work so he can get laid some more, and getting stoned. Then the film’s scope expands to witness the lives of the people around Byron, and a lot of them are awful weird (see the list above). Then Byron’s life takes several drastic turns and he’s sent off on a literal and metaphysical journey into the great unknown.

In its blend of documentary and narrative tropes, “Lord Byron” reminded me of a few movies I’ve seen on the festival circuit lately — most recently “Aardvark” at Fantastic Fest — that combine reality and fantasy onscreen in unusual ways. These movies place non-actors in familiar settings then send their lives veering off on weird tangents. There is something interesting in these works about the tension between fact and fiction, but there’s also something frustrating too: the actors aren’t as good as professionals would be in a traditional fiction film, and the worlds they inhabit aren’t as revelatory as they would be in a traditional documentary. “Lord Byron” has some clever ideas, a few nice scenes (I particularly liked Byron’s drug-dealer-slash-begrudging-cosplayer), and a lot of gangly loose ends. The movie break a few boundaries but never breaks through its own limitations.

What’s your favorite fiction film starring a non-professional actor? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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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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