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DID YOU READ

Adam Brody and Whit Stillman talk “Damsels in Distress” and dating losers

Adam Brody and Analeigh Tipton in "Damsels in Distress"

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By Jennifer Vineyard

It’s called “Damsels in Distress,” but Whit Stillman’s first movie in 14 years (like “Metropolitan,” “Barcelona,” and “The Last Days of Disco” before it) also has quite a few dudes in distress as well. This time, they are played by Adam Brody, Billy Magnusson, Ryan Metcalf, and Hugo Becker (best known for his role as Blaire Waldorf’s quasi husband on “Gossip Girl”).

“People were saying to me, ‘Oh my gosh! How did you get Prince Louis in your film?'” Stillman told IFC, laughing. “He has the same manager as I do, that’s how.”

“The part I’m playing is so different,” Becker enthused. “I’m really playing a bad guy. You’ll see. I’m an ass in the movie. I think some people will definitely hate me after this.”

Becker’s character, Xavier, was originally written as an American college student, but was changed to be a French man once he won the role, which makes his request for “Cathar love” seem all the more cosmopolitan. (Don’t know what “Cathar love” is? Stillman laughed, “Look it up.”)

“Xavier is supposed to be trying to save the girls from their troubles,” Stillman said, “but he does scabrous things, sort of. But he doesn’t like talking about it.”

Boys like Xavier contribute to a theory espoused by the lead character Violet (played by Greta Gerwig) — that falling for handsome and intelligent guy is a sure path to suicide. (Hence, her work at a suicide prevention center). Violet and her college friends try to date the less handsome (such as Metcalf’s Frank) or the less intelligent (such as Magnusson’s Thor), or as she puts it, the “frankly inferior,” but she still feels herself strangely drawn to the suave Charlie (played by Brody).

“Violet’s theory that you should date losers, that you shouldn’t date on your level is mostly a rationalization,” Brody said. “Whit Stillman doesn’t even actually subscribe to that theory himself, even though he’s had that idea repeated in other movies. But it is such a unique theory, because he’s literally championing the exact opposite of what every other movie tells you.”

For instance, once Violet realizes “Charlie” is actually Fred, and that he’s been telling lies to her friends about who he is and what he does for a living, she’s even more attracted to him, not less. “We’re told that lies are bad and that honesty is the best policy,” Brody said, “but that’s not actually the case. And this isn’t an instance of just telling a polite fib to protect someone’s feelings, or a little fib about your age. What Stillman is championing is reinvention, that you can present how you’d like to be seen. That my character invents his name and his job title is not the worst thing he could do, and Violet sees that as totally fine and even acceptable.”

By embodying many of Stillman’s recurring themes — as Chris Eigeman used to — Brody becomes a bit of the writer/director’s surrogate. In fact, Stillman hopes to pair the two actors in his next project. “I don’t know why he’s taken such a liking to me,” Brody said. “I’m flattered, but I don’t feel nearly as sharp as Chris Eigeman. I’m not worthy!”

Brody confessed to looking up the more mannered vocabulary in Stillman’s script, so he could play catch-up. (He was the last one cast and had little time to prep).

“I wanted to zip my tongue around it, so I looked up decadence, dandyism, sublimation, as it relates to literature,” he said.

That’s because his character Fred proposes that the topic of his paper will be “The Decline of Decadence”: “Take the flit movement in literature, or homosexuality. It’s gone completely downhill. Right down the tubes. Before, homosexuality was something refined, hidden, sublimated, aspiring to be the highest forms of expression and often achieving them. Now it just seems to be a lot of muscle-bound morons running around in T-shirts. It’s pretty disillusioning.” Violet then asks him, “Are you gay?” “Not especially, but in another era, it would have had more appeal. Now, I just don’t see the point,” he tells her.

“I even asked Whit for a reading list,” Brody said. “Some of the stories I had read before: Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop, Tolstoy’s Childhood, Boyhood, and Youth, Jane Austen’s Persuasion. I felt like I was going to college, though, and I was inspired to read even more. I was expecting to have all these discussions with Whit like my character does in the movie, and none of that happened. I mean, we had some later, but not on the shoot. There was no time. But it wasn’t necessary to understand all of his philosophical musings to play the part. He’s just operating on a much higher level.”

Despite the discussions of homosexuality and sodomy in the script, Brody said everything on and off set was kept very “chaste” — no cursing allowed. “When Whit found out I was doing [the “Deep Throat” movie] Lovelace, he said, ‘Oh no. I hope you’re not doing any nudity,'” the actor said. “Yes, he just wrote a movie that has anal sex, but that’s a ruse — it’s more a quest for a higher spirituality, if that’s possible.”

Brody compared “Damsels” to “The Last Days of Disco,” “when you had a character doing coke and sleeping with a stripper”: “Yes, there’s a club scene, and it’s a sexually charged atmosphere with drugs everywhere, but they have a philosophical discussion. They’re relentlessly upwardly mobile.”

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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…