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Mark Duplass (#110 of 9)

Tribeca Review: The Overnight and Man Up

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Tribeca Review: <em>The Overnight</em> and <em>Man Up</em>
Tribeca Review: <em>The Overnight</em> and <em>Man Up</em>

Executive produced by Mark and Jay Duplass, Patrick Brice’s The Overnight has a lot in common with the brothers’ HBO dramedy Togetherness. Both explore the existential angst of being no longer young but not quite middle-aged yet, as experienced by a small cohort of middle- and upper-middle-class white Angelenos. And both create a sometimes cringe-inducing facsimile of the unpredictability of real life by mixing comic awkwardness with genuine tenderness and vulnerability, often in the same moment.

The Overnight’s insecure stay-at-home dad, Alex (Adam Scott), and savvy, nurturing working mom, Emily (Taylor Schilling), are feeling their way through their mid 30s. They may not be quite aware that their capacity for spontaneous joy and their sexual spark are slowly suffocating under the routines of a years-old marriage and the responsibilities of parenthood, but they feel something missing, Alex in particular fretting about the difficulty of making friends in a new place (they just moved to Los Angeles). Then the quirky but irresistible Kurt (Jason Schwartzman, whose air of impish innocence makes the character seem a little dangerous, but ultimately trustworthy) spots them in a park where their children and his are playing and invites them to dinner. His invitation feels magical, an answer to the couple’s unspoken prayer. And, like a wish granted by a genie, it opens the door to a new and better world.

Body of Work Lake Bell

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Body of Work: Lake Bell

LD Entertainment

Body of Work: Lake Bell

There’s plenty more to Lake Bell than the casual viewer—or gawker—might think. On the big screen (It’s Complicated), the small screen (How to Make It in America), and even online (Children’s Hospital), the 34-year-old has shown her great gift for angsty comedy, and with things like this 2011 Maxim cover story, she’s broadcasted her embrace of being a slinky sex symbol. She’s merged both attributes in recent flicks like A Good Old Fashioned Orgy, and in New Girl, on which she briefly guest-starred. But Bell has tackled her share of straight-up drama, too, in projects like the short-lived series Surface, her recurring role on The Practice and Boston Legal, and, now, the girls-gone-primal survivor thriller Black Rock, which co-stars Kate Bosworth and the film’s director, Katie Aselton. Highly rugged and often quite brutal, Black Rock sees its trio of female leads do all their own stunts, and suffer a great deal of bumps, cuts and bruises in the process. Was it a thrill for Bell to ditch the giggling and vamping and dive into no-frills combat?

“I mean, hell yes,” the actress says, calling in from L.A., “especially because I don’t get this opportunity, ever. Well, in Surface I got to do it a little bit, but it’s been many years since I’ve had the opportunity to let out my inner badass. Katie Aselton specifically did not want us to workout, train, or choreograph anything. She really wanted it to be messy, and real, so it felt very real and therefore a little more uncomfortable. In these movies, it takes you out of it sometimes when you see normal civilians all of the sudden rising to the occasion and doing a jiu-jitsu roundhouse kick or something. In order to sell this, we really kinda had to just go for it.”

Filmfest Munich 2012

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Filmfest Munich 2012

Filmopolis

Filmfest Munich 2012

One of the girls in front of me asked aloud, “So, who’s that old lady with the red hair?” They didn’t know it was Ingrid Caven, one of the great German actresses, once married to Rainer Werner Fassbinder and now passing by us on her way to give a talk at this year’s Filmfest Munich. The girls had come to see James Franco, who was at the festival to present three of his “weird artsy films”—films they would watch in spite of never understanding. This is what Filmfest Munich, the eclectic, hyperactive little sister of the Berlinale, is about: Focused mainly on being an audience-pleaser, it provides no real leitmotif or focus, leaving plenty of room for personal interpretation, and sometimes wonder.

One of those controversial festival choices this year was the Cinemerit Award that was given to Melanie Griffith for her lifetime achievement. And as Isabella Rossellini rightfully mentioned in Late Bloomers, once you start receiving lifetime achievement awards, it means you’re done. We’ve heard little from Griffith in years, at least on an international level, not since her notable performance in John Waters’s Cecil B. Demented 12 years ago, so eyebrows were raised (metaphorically speaking, as Munich is also a hot spot for Botox injections) when it was announced that she would be this year’s recipient, succeeding John Malkovich. But Griffith brought some glamour to the boiling hot Bavarian city and added to the festival hype. As did the perpetually sleepy-eyed Franco, who drew quite a crowd when introducing and talking about his films. His audience mostly consisted of fangirls, but his heartthrob persona admirably drew people to films that are normally only of interest to the nerdiest of cineastes.

SXSW 2012: The Do-Deca-Pentathlon, Frankie Go Boom, & 21 Jump Street

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SXSW 2012: <em>The Do-Deca-Pentathlon</em>, <em>Frankie Go Boom</em>, & <em>21 Jump Street</em>
SXSW 2012: <em>The Do-Deca-Pentathlon</em>, <em>Frankie Go Boom</em>, & <em>21 Jump Street</em>

The core framework of The Do-Deca-Pentathlon—two brothers, one with his life “together” and the other an irresponsible louse, reuniting, fighting, and reconciling—feels a bit too basic and familiar for Mark and Jay Duplass, serving as a convenient excuse to populate their film with admittedly hilarious scenes of rival siblings childishly rekindling old grudges. Mark (Steve Zissis) brings his wife (Jennifer Lafleur) and son (Reid Williams) back to his mother’s (Julie Vorus) house for his birthday celebration, specifically not inviting his belligerent brother Jeremy (Mark Kelly), who shows up anyway, intent on baiting Mark into participating in the titular 25-event Olympic-style competition the brothers created back in high school.

An Interview with Jay and Mark Duplass

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An Interview with Jay and Mark Duplass
An Interview with Jay and Mark Duplass

So, last night while watching Cyrus, the word I repeatedly jotted down was “honest.”

Jay Duplass: Oh God, we’re gonna start crying now.

I’m wondering how you were able to keep and develop that honesty while working within a studio environment for the first time?

Mark Duplass: Well, we did work with a studio, but it’s Fox Searchlight, so you know, this is what they want to be doing. That being said, it was a production with an 80- or 100-person crew, so we did have to take some extra steps to create an intimate set that can give you the honesty you’re talking about. So the key for us was making sure that every set was a closed set. Jay on the camera, another cameraman, boom op, tops. And I would watch from a monitor and Jay and I would make sure to continue what we’ve always done, which is spend as much time as possible on the acting and with the actors. And keep everything technical that is happening out of the way of the actors. When you establish that set, it’s almost like theater. It’s just here, with the directors and the actors.

SXSW 2010: Cyrus, The Thorn in the Heart, & More

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SXSW 2010: <em>Cyrus</em>, <em>The Thorn in the Heart</em>, & More
SXSW 2010: <em>Cyrus</em>, <em>The Thorn in the Heart</em>, & More

Cyrus (Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass): I first became aware of filmmaking brothers Jay and Mark Duplass when I saw their feature The Puffy Chair at SXSW ’05. The brothers are SXSW favorites, and though that may be partly because they’re local talent (they went to film school at the University of Texas), it’s not the main reason. Their funny, truthful character studies, which respect all their characters without putting any on a pedestal, fit right into the festival’s laidback yet professional vibe.

In Cyrus, John C. Reilly plays John, a man whose new romance with what appears to be the perfect woman (Marisa Tomei) is threatened by her diabolically passive-aggressive son (Jonah Hill), who wants to keep her all to himself. The three are funny and touching, and the kind-eyed Catherine Keener is wonderfully wry, as always, as John’s ex-wife, who’s patiently weaning him from emotional dependence seven years after their divorce.

Tribeca Film Festival 2008: Baghead

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Tribeca Film Festival 2008: <em>Baghead</em>
Tribeca Film Festival 2008: <em>Baghead</em>

A prankish comedy-thriller overtly about desperation and insecurity, Baghead begins with a dead-on Q&A at a Los Angeles indie film festival, where an underground auteur (Jett Garner) condescendingly responds on matters of budget and improvisation. (“Do you plan every word you’re going to say every day?”) A quartet of unemployed actors, after being ejected from the fest’s afterparty, ruminate about their careers and decide to hole up in a house in the sticks to write a screenplay for their own calling-card vehicle. This second feature by the Duplass brothers, with co-writer/lead actor Jay from The Puffy Chair now sharing directing credit with Mark, soon becomes a kind of mumblecorish spin on The Blair Witch Project (or a riff on that movie’s founding marketing myth that it was authentic found footage). But the crux of the suspense is where the joking will stop, both among the deceptive and game-playing characters and by the filmmakers. As a hybrid, it’s destined to disappoint horror fiends who take its predator-in-the-woods moves at face value, but it delivers on its premise that the shameless scheming of a friend can be a scarier phenomenon than a boogeyman with a knife.