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Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

Regrets that her mother did not smoke

Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

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Life of Mary MacLane

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Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

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Entries in eleanor morrow (45)

Thursday
Oct232014

In Which We Remain Engaged For Six Years

About the Last Few Nights

by ELEANOR MORROW

Marry Me
creator David Caspe

Odd couple romances drive society to exceed its norms and boundaries, bringing the joy of love to unexpected, dark places. In the background of David Caspe's new NBC comedy Marry Me is one such arrangement, a love story that recalls Belle and the beast, Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon, or Minnie Driver and anyone.


Gil (John Gemberling) is a divorced hair-plug salesman who looks like a sheep with only its head unshorn. Dennah (Sarah Wright Olsen) is a leggy blonde fresh off portraying the nuanced role of Jerry's daughter on Parks & Recreation. She is always clad in a romper; he is always wearing a two-tone sweatshirt. One appears to have nothing to do with the other: yet because each has flaws, they must accept each other.


In contrast, the central relationship at the core of Marry Me, embodied by Ken Marino and comedian Casey Wilson, already feels completely neutered. Six years into things, there are not a lot of surprises for us to uncover, except that Annie is a "drama queen" and Jake has a penis. It is hard to believe that a connection this mediocre is supposedly based on the true life coming together of Wilson and writer David Caspe, except the penis part!

Caspe sets Marry Me in Chicago, the city where all romance goes to die. About Last Night, the Chicago romance between Demi Moore and Rob Lowe, did not end well as I recall, The Break-Up was gross and depressing, and no one was actually happy in Happy Endings, especially not Elisha Cuthbert, who was forced into a two way with a guy who owned a food truck.


The men of Chicago are the drizzling shits. Reduced to such a meager collection of candidates, even a leggy blonde like Dennah has to learn how to settle, which is basically the message of Marry Me: if you don't lower your expectations and fall in love with basically whoever is around, you will end up alone.

Wilson's impressively rehearsed histrionics have carried over from Happy Endings, and at times she seems to be playing an abridged version of the character. None of her friends on the show seem like the actual people such a charismatic individual would attract. Wilson is essentially too good for everyone in the entire city of Chicago, and it would have been amazing to start Marry Me with the tension filled Mexican vacation the couple finds themselves returning from in the series' opening scene.


Kay (Tymberlee Hill) has the unforgiving role of the token black and the token gay; in order to set up her character, she admits to Annie that she peed in her friend's clothes hamper. There is also no world where Ken Marino's mother (JoBeth Williams) is blonde.

When Jake moves in with Annie after six long years of separate apartments, she starts to feel crowded and moves her liquor cabinet, drapes and collectibles into her car, giving her the space she needs. It seems like a bad sign that she finds Jake in a set of boxer briefs revolting, but this is glossed over. How can you lead the story to the conclusion that its central characters aren't right for each other when the show is called Marry Me?


Marry Me really should have been about a leggy blonde fresh off fake-dating Rob Lowe who meets a schlumpy guy and decides that love is destined to take an unexpected, more rotund form. A concept episode surrounding their intensely unlikely intercourse is sure to outdo M'Lady in youtube views. When he reaches out a grizzled, foodstained paw to stroke her manicured hand, she will not shudder.

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Manhattan.


Tuesday
Sep162014

In Which Michael Fassbender Brought The Whole Band

Fassbending

by ELEANOR MORROW

Frank
dir. Lenny Abrahamson
95 minutes

In Frank Michael Fassbender has a line serrating his upper hair from his lower hair. It is the impression of the cartoon head he wears onstage as a performer in an experimental rock group for the first 70 minutes of Frank. Near the end of the film we meet Frank's parents and we learn is from the God that brought you the mentally unstable Daniel Johnston (he once crashed a plane and survived) or the astonishingly honorific Dr. Dre. I think Alanis Morisette has sclerosis?

Something is always like something else.

Frank features ensemble experimental music created by a group of actors, which was the entire reason for the failure of the John Cage musical. The songs are uniformly bad until the last number, where Fassbender bleats 'I love you all' while staring away from the camera. Maggie Gyllenhaal attempts eye contact for a few seconds during this improvised song, but it is never achieved.

Robbed of his ability to make that expression where he shows off his gums, Fassbender attempts to construct Frank purely out of his movements. The best part of Frank is when Fassbender runs anywhere - his legs revolve like those of Bugs Bunny or the Tasmanian Devil. You can tell it is Fassbender in the head the entire time, even if no one told you. You would just be like, That's the guy from everything, which is what we say before a talented artist achieves his defining role, like Tom Cruise in Jack Reacher.

At first Frank seems like a musical genius, but once you hear his songs, that possibility fades away. Frank has the worst music of any movie.


Gyllenhaal too is focused on her physicality. Left as the only interesting thing to look at in a group of guys who look like they were taken from central casting for  a Freddie Mercury biopic, she writhes and poses in equal measure. She has aged very well and is only now being cast in parts appropriate for her dashing, tilting artifice. She can keep something - a scene, a moment - alive long after you believed it was dead, and show the camera how it has been changed by being resurrected.

The only time the film is quiet or at rest is when the band's manager is tweeting about their album recording session or tumbling about a really moving artistic moment. The tumblr and twitter posts appear onscreen, just so you're 100 percent sure that none of this is the least bit authentic. All of them are super-cringeworthy, the ones that are meant to be and the ones that aren't meant to be. Telling the difference is a job for scientists, artisans, or psychologists. The only thing that is certain is that this movie is not a satire, unless...would that make it better?

Having never approached the sun, you can be certain Frank never tried to imitate the actual creative process. It just tries to stand in the light nearby.

The point of Frank, I guess, is that nothing is authentic, especially in, but not limited to, the musical world. John Cage was possibly authentic, but no one else, especially not Lou Reed or Andy Warhol or Mark Kozelek or Gary Lutz or Marlon Brando or Junot Diaz or Stanley Fish or Javier Bardem. They were all in soap operas. You will know the real thing when you see it.

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Washington D.C. You can find an archive of her writing here.

"Armpit" - Ashrae Fax (mp3)

"Daddystitch" - Ashrae Fax (mp3)

Tuesday
Jul292014

In Which Her Parents Constituted The Final Straw

Paying My Dues for the Journey

by ELEANOR MORROW

They Came Together
dir. David Wain
83 minutes

Joel (Paul Rudd) is an executive at Candy Systems Incorporated, a multi-ventured candy conglomerate. He is in a long-term relationship with a brunette named Tiffany (Cobie Smulders) who struggles to return his affection because of certain depraved incidents in her past.

On the day that Joel plans to propose to Tiffany, he finds her apartment spackled with torn off clothes and accessories on the hardwood floor. He calls out her name and hears sounds in the bedroom. Assuming she is just washing herself noisily in the shower, he attempts an elongated speech to preface his marriage proposal. When he turns around he sees her in the arms of Trevor (Michael Ian Black). His relationship is over.

With this inauspicious beginning commences David Wain's supreme masterpiece, They Came Together. Previously known for tackling lighter topics like the innocent thrills of summer camps or couples retreats, They Came Together marks a departure for Wain. The film is riotously funny, but it is also deeply personal.

On the surface, They Came Together presents like a zany parody of You've Got Mail. Joel's new love interest is Molly (Amy Poehler). Watching Molly swish through her delightful homespun candy shop named Upper Sweet Side makes you realize how much the showrunners on Parks and Recreation dressed and made her up so as not to overshadow Rashida Jones or Aubrey Plaza.

In They Came Together, Poehler's Molly is the utter embodiment of womanhood. Mother of a nine year old son, she meets Joel at a Halloween party where both attend dressed as Ben Franklin.

Joel and Molly don't click at first, but eventually the two New Yorkers discover they share a rare hobby: they like fiction books. "It's the feeling of being transported to another place and time," Molly says at one point. Just as quickly as their romance takes off, Joel has second thoughts when he discovers that Molly's parents are white supremacists. (Did you know that over 30 percent of whites in America believe in white supremacy, and of those 30 percent, over 95 percent of white supremacists are regular viewers of Person of Interest?)

Molly and Joel try to make their relationships with other people work after that. Joel gets back together with Tiffany, who is honest enough to inform him that he should be very suspicious of her motives, and Molly finally accepts the advances of her accountant admirer Eggbert (Ed Helms). He does not particularly share her love of fiction ("I only like to read about things that actually happened," he explains over a burrito) but he does seem pretty devoted to her, even complimenting her on how she plays Charades.

Where They Came Together really shines in its exploration of how Jewish men adapt to dating non-Jewish women. Joel's parents were killed in a tragic accident, and he has had to provide for his younger brother  Jake (Max Greenfield) who now works as a cab driver. His knowledge of the financial reality of the candy industry is the complete opposite of Molly's homespun ways  in her shop, candy is free for all children and dogs.

When Joel's company attempts to put Molly's tiny candy shop out of business, we realize how insane it was in You've Got Mail that Meg Ryan blamed her low sales on bookstore chains that are now themselves filing for bankruptcy. No one has ever properly explained to me why wasting paper is somehow morally superior to reading something on your phone, and I doubt they ever will.

Unlike the out-of-date pieces of shit They Came Together pays tribute to, there is no happy ending here. Molly discovers she has an affinity for prescription painkillers, and the coffee shop that Joel tries to open on the Upper West Side flops within a week. Meaningfully, there is no overly familiar scene where Joel and Molly have sex  it wasn't really about that. It was about the candy, and how you really should not give it away for free.

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Manhattan. She last wrote in these pages about Masters of Sex. You can find an archive of her writing for This Recording here.

"Not Mine to Love" - Slow Club (mp3)

"The Pieces" - Slow Club (mp3