Aubrey Plaza on Her Seductive Starring Role in Hal Hartley’s ‘Ned Rifle’

Aubrey Plaza, Ned Rifle, Hal hartley

The world may know Aubrey Plaza as the charmingly apathetic April Ludgate from the beloved series Parks and Recreation, but now that the show has ended, we’re about to see a whole new side of her. Having appeared in a number of independent films over the past five years, Plaza’s finest on screen performance yet comes in Hal Hartley’s intelligent and sexy new satire, Ned Rifle. As the third and final chapter of the iconic American independent director’s “Henry Fool Trilogy,” the film focuses on Ned Rifle, a devout young man on a mission to kill his father.

Now eighteen and free from witness protection, on Ned’s quest to avenge the man who ruined his the life of his mother (played brilliantly by Parker Posey) he meets Susan (Plaza), an obsessive graduate student who hitches herself along for the ride. Clad in tattered mini dresses, smeared lipstick, thigh highs, and wobbly stilettos, Plaza feels perfectly at home in Hartley’s world—one rife with taut, deadpan dialogue, great physical energy, and sincerity that shines through its arched exteriors.

Ned Rifle is currently having its theatrical run at IFC Center this week, as well as the first ever Hartley retrospective happening at Cinefamily in Los Angeles. So yesterday we hopped on the phone with Plaza to chat about the transition from improvisational comedy to Hartley’s precise style, entering the cast as an outsider, and bring Susan to life through her unique wardrobe.


How did you meet Hal and become a part of the film? Were you previous a fan of his work?

Yeah, I was a fan of Hal’s, and I’d seen Henry Fool in college. I went to NYU Film School, so I saw it then, but had not seen all of his movies. I’d seen Henry Fool and The Unbelievable Truth, which I love so much, and then Trust. It was actually a pretty fast process. My agent got wind that he was doing a Kickstarter campaign and thought it might be something that I was into. So he sent Hal a movie that I was in called Safety Not Guaranteed and, because of that, Hal thought that maybe I would be right for Susan. Then we had a really great phone call where I just said I would love to do it and he said, well I would love for you to do it, so then we just did it.

When I spoke to him earlier this week he mentioned that you reached out to Parker for advice before shooting started.

I talked to her when I got to New York, and she was so kind to meet me for coffee and let me pick her brain a little bit about working with Hal and what it’s like, because I was a little intimidated. She’s so generous and encouraging, and she told me what it was like to shoot with him and really prepared me for it. She also reminded me that I need to know every single word and not forget any lines. It was a nice welcome to the world of Hal Hartley.

What exactly were you intimidated by? 

I just wasn’t sure what his process was. I’ve been in a very improvised world in the past couple years, so being so specific with dialogue was something that was a new challenge for me, which I really loved. Recently I’ve worked with a lot of first time film directors, so I was a little intimated to work with someone who has made so many movies—but that was also one of the reasons why I was so excited to work with him.


How was the experience then once you got on set? I’m sure the very precise way he works must be a challenge but also really fun and rewarding as an actor.

He just has a really clear vision of how scenes go down. Parker and Martin Donovan explained it to me by likening his scene directing to dance choreography. He knows what your movements should be and then it’s your job to make sense of it all and put the subtext behind why you’re, like, walking across the room at a certain time or whatever. So it was definitely a collaboration. He loves actors and he loves hearing what actors have to say also, so it was a good balance working with someone who was very specific and knew what they wanted and someone that’s also hearing you out. 

Did you look to other female Hartley actors for inspiration, like Parker, Adrienne Shelley, Elina Löwensohn, or did you want to make Susan entirely your own?

I didn’t use anyone, I just worked on the character. It’s all on the page, so I tired to make Susan like a real person.

Hal said that you contributed a lot to the way Susan looked and the specificity of her wardrobe. Can you tell me about your interpretation of her and how you wanted to bring her to life aesthetically?

I worked with a costume designer and we really did a casual fitting in the apartment I was staying in. It’s really fun to come up with what a character wears—especially when you have a character that’s basically homeless and has such a  strong agenda of finding this person and seducing them. So for me it was really fun to come up with what this person would wear, and I do think that Susan, she had this kind of seductive agenda with everyone really because that’s all she has to work with. That was my thinking of it.

This girl is trying to find a needle in a haystack in New York City and she’s got to get information on people, so how’s she going to do that? She’s got no money and no resources, and the only thing she’s really got going for her is her body and her mind. So I just kind of tried to use that as an information. I like to make really specific choices that help me get into character, so I thought one kind of runner would be having her always in these thigh high stockings because there’s something kind of off about it and it doesn’t totally make sense. 


Susan running around in giant stilettos was inherently amusing, especially when she’s not supposed to be super graceful.

Totally, I loved that. The shoes were more Hal’s idea. He had a very specific idea of my shoe wear, and it all helps. It is kind of a funny images to see this girl wobbling on heels don the street trying to go after these men.

How was getting to work in such charged scenes with Thomas Jay Ryan?

It was the best. I love working with him so much. It was so bizarre to interact with him in character when he was playing Henry Fool because I’m familiar with the movie and the characters. So it was a little trippy to be in a movie with him. But he’s such a seasoned theater actor, and I learned a lot from working with him. He’s so patient and so thoughtful.

As a fan of the movie that must be a strange experience to suddenly be inhabiting this world that you’ve watch on screen, and one where everyone else has already been a part of for so long.

It’s weird. It was scary at first because you just hope that you’re going to fit in and you’re going to do the material justice, especially working with someone like Hal you just want so badly for him to be pleased. Of course I was ridiculously insecure about it but everyone was so welcoming. The minute we started shooting I felt totally free and confident, but leading up to it, it was scary.


Was there one day on set that stood out for you as a particular pleasure?

The very first day was so crazy to me. The very first scene we shot was the first scene with me and Liam where I approach him in the coffee shop. I didn’t really know where we were shooting or what the deal was in terms of production and how many people were going to be on the crew and all that. So when they brought me on set for the very first time to shoot that scene, the PA led me into this coffee shop, and it was a fully functioning coffee shop. People were ordering coffee, there was music playing, there were people talking, and at first I thought, oh these must be extras. I’m just used to background actors or something. Then Liam was like, oh no, these people are just getting coffee on the Lower East Side. I didn’t see a camera and I didn’t see lights and I didn’t see anyone and couldn’t believe that we were shooting in that way. So that was just crazy to me. Once we started going it was amazing to just do it among real people and in a real coffee shop. It was a little bit different from Parks and Recreation, but it felt really freeing.

Speaking of Parks and Recreation, how does it feel now that the show has ended? Was it hard to say goodbye after being a part of the show for so long?

It’s been a really weird couple months. Those people were like my family for so long and that show is the reason I moved to L.A. I have such an attachment to that show and really grew up in my 20s on it. So it was hard to let it go, but I’m still in denial. Right now is the time I would be hiatus, so I think once July and August roll around and I’m not going back to the Pawnee bullpen, that’s when it will really hit me. The cool thing about that group of people is that we all genuinely love each other and we’re doing a really good job so far of keeping in touch, so I’m pretty grateful more than anything.

Now that the show is over, do you want to start taking on more projects like this and opening yourself to new kinds of roles?

Yeah, it’s hard to really know how that will really change what I do. Not having the option to do things during those months, I just didn’t know anything different, so it’s a whole new ballgame for me. It’s very strange to not have a plan and not know what you’re doing in the next couple months. So living month to month is a new thing for me, but I’m excited to have a clean slate and just see what will come out of it. Of course I’m always looking to do different roles and things I haven’t done before.

Is there anyone you’d love to work with that you haven’t yet?

I was actually thinking this morning that I would actually love to work with Kristen Wiig. I realized that we’ve never really done anything together and she’s so funny. All the dramatic roles she’s taken in the past year or two just show what a range she has and. There are so many people I’d love to work with, but I was actually thinking about her this morning and how I’d love to do some kind of comedy with her.

Hal Hartley Returns With the Intelligent and Sexy Satire, ‘Ned Rifle’

Aubrey Plaza, Ned Rifle, Film, Hal Hartley

“The opportunity that novels have to tell a story and delve deep into subject matter and reference a number of different things, I’ve always wanted to make movies that could do that,” says pioneering independent filmmaker Hal Hartley. For over thirty years now, Hartley has been writing, directing, and producing an intelligent and offbeat body of work. From The Unbelievable Truth and Trust to Amateur and The Book of Life, his films are narratively varied yet stylistically unwavering, with a brilliant cadence unmistakably his own. With his signature affinity for deadpan delivery and emphasis on physical performance, he weaves together complex tales of everyday traumas attune to his keen and sense of humanity, comedy, and drama. 

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It’s been eight years since Hartley’s last feature, but now he’s back for the final chapter of the “Henry Fool Trilogy,” with the clever and rousing adventure, Ned Rifle. Following 1997’s Henry Fool and 2006’s Fay Grim, the trilogy continues with its wonderful recurring cast of actors: Parker Posey, Liam Aiken, Thomas James Ryan, and James Urbaniak, with the addition of a lipstick-stained, gun-toting Aubrey Plaza. Having grown up on screen in the first two features, Ned Rifle centers on Aiken as young man on a mission to kill his father. Now eighteen and a devout Christian, while on his quest to avenge the man who ruined the life of his mother (Posey), he meets an obsessive, stiletto-clad graduate student who hitches herself along for the ride. 

In honor of the film’s theatrical return, his work is being celebrated on both coasts this week, with IFC Center showing Henry Fool and Fay Grim tonight before their run of Ned Rifle, as well as the first ever Hal Hartley retrospective happening this weekend at Cinefamily in Los Angeles. To ring in the occasion, I had the chance to speak with Hartley about the inception of the trilogy, the poetic rhythm of his work, and writing for the first time in a voice outside his own.

When you began writing Henry Fool, did you have any idea this would turn into a trilogy? When in the process did you realize you wanted the story to end with Ned’s experience?

When I made Henry Fool, that was just thought of as one film— although we did joke. We really could imagine these characters in different situations and joke with each other like, Oh wouldn’t it be great to have the Grim family go to the Museum of Modern Art. But it was just that, and it was only when I wanted to make Fay Grim that I knew I would do more.

I wanted to make a film with Parker in the lead after this very good experience with her on Henry Fool. That character was really written as a supporting player and she really brought so much depth and dynamic to it that she ended up starring largely in the film. After batting around a couple of ideas we decided that we’d make a movie about Fay. Rather than just making a continuing story, I could make totally different movies about totally different subject matter but only use this family. So that’s when this started, but I knew that if I was going to do that I was probably going to at least make a third. 

I took Liam Aiken, who was sixteen at the time, out to lunch because I wanted to know what he was going to do. He had a pretty good career as a child actor at that point, so I wanted to make sure he was going to stick with it. Of course he was sixteen so he didn’t know what he wanted to do. He was in a rock band, but I trusted my instincts and thought he was going to grow up to be an actor. Then when I was writing Fay Grim I knew the third would have to be about the son. I didn’t know anything else about it except that it would be this person that’s on his way to kill his dad. In order just to write Fay Grim the way I did, I needed to know at least that much. 

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Can you talk about the decision to make Ned a devout Christian? It was so anathema to everyone else’s lifestyle that his faith was almost his vice.

Yeah, and the first thing was, what’s the most improbable thing for this kid to be? I’ve done a lot of writing in my movies and other things about religion, I grew out of my interest in history, and I’ve done a lot of reading about religion and am fascinated by it. I’m not religious myself, but I’m interested in maintaining some kind of spiritual foundation.

So I felt this was a good option, and that I could do it critically and respectfully. I also wanted to address the idea of young people, whether they’re Christian or Islamic or whatever, searching for some kind of spiritual certainty and becoming righteous about it. It’s all theoretical though, because you haven’t actually lived enough or had enough experiences to really earn that spiritual certainty—and that’s what happens to Ned at the end of the film, he’s earned it. 

Is it a different experience writing a character that you’ve been developing for nearly two decades now? Is it easier because you can hear their voice and know their rhythms, or is it difficult because you want to do them justice and give them material we haven’t seen.

Certainly. Writing for Parker for instance, she’s one of the few actors I’ve ever worked with who has everything I need. I need someone who’s a good vocal actor and can hear rhythm and melody in the dialogue, then also be a great physical actor. My work is really tying together the rhythm and melody of the dialogue with the melody of physical activity, and she is really great at that. So it’s hilarious to write for Parker and I totally hear her.

Writing for Ned was interesting because it’s the first time I’ve directed Liam as an adult. Before, working with a child, you kind of get what you can get. You make what you hope in a strong decision in casting someone because of their manner, but you don’t really have that much control over how they’re going to speak. I was very gratified that he has grown up to be the kind of actor I like; he is very good with words and he really appreciates the specificity.

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Aubrey seemed perfectly at home in your directorial style. How was the process of working with her?

She’s a hard worker and she’s done the research. Before she even landed in New York and we’d only talked on the telephone, she talked to Parker. She told her that she’d been watching the films and asked what she had to do now. Parker said, “Know your dialogue top to bottom, he’ll take care of the rest.” I think it was a shock for Aubrey the first day. When I talk about physical activity, I mean there is no improvisation when we start taking the shots and there is no improvisation in the dialogue. Also, there’s only one camera. So she was a little nervous about that.

It’s one thing for me to be able to talk about it with you this way, but when I’m on set I’m not that clear or verbal. I kind of find myself grabbing people by the elbows and moving them around. She took it in the first day, and at the end of the day she wanted to know how she did and I told her honestly that she did great. I showed her some of the shots from the day and she said, okay, I get this. She’s a professional and that’s why you have professionals, because they know how to adapt and learn.

Even her slight physical gestures were great, especially the way she’d walk or run–her high heels inherently making that comical.

Yeah, she really was in charge of her own look here. She just showed up in New York and told Sandy, the costume designer, she said, “Well I’m bringing some stuff and if Hal likes it that will be great.” So she showed up with all these heels and these short dresses, and I thought wow, all right. I didn’t have in my mind the idea of Susan being that hot, I imagined her more bookish and floppy, but this is how she was and it worked terrifically. Once I had a real person to work with, in real shoes, then I had ideas. 

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Your films, and especially this trilogy, are steeped in references to and the ways we interact with art. They also manage to build upon themselves and combine genres of familial drama, crime, romance, etc. in a way that feels very novelistic. Are you drawn to literature and the depth of story it provides when thinking of the kinds of films you want to make?

Yeah, I think I am. I couldn’t have said it at the beginning of my career, because I didn’t have the experience and the words for it, but now I feel closer to novels. Novels have more effect on what I’m thinking about and how I want to render it, while still being completely a filmmaker. I’m not trying to translate literature into movies. I really feel like filmmaking–the grammar, the reality, and the poetry of it–is really what I do.

The opportunity that novels have to tell a story and to delve deep into subject matter and reference a number of different things, I’ve always wanted to make movies that could do that. In one way it keeps movies from being more widely accessible, because movies have always been something you watch once and either appreciate or you don’t. From early on in my career I realized that I was aiming to make movies that you watch once and have what it requires to be an experience and then you go back. 

From the moment your films start there are many defining characteristics unique to your style, but your music is certainly one of them. Can you tell me a bit in writing the music for this and when in the process you begin with that element? 

It’s mostly after, but it’s changed a little over the years. Most of the themes for Ned Rifle of course grow out of musical themes from the earlier films. When I made Fay Grim it was more obvious, I took all that Fool music and put it in different keys and different registers, and was playing with making it more for an espionage thriller. The music for Ned Rifle started when I was doing a Kickstarter campaign. One of the ways I would keep people interested was by making music all the time, since I was up 24 hours a day anyways. I made music and then posted it for the Kickstarter people. I had some ideas from Henry Fool but went way further away from it than I did with Fay Grim.


Simply in terms of time, Henry Fool is an epic film, but Fay Grim and Ned Rifle get increasingly shorter in length. Is there a conscious reason for that?

Henry Fool was longer than any of the films I’d made before and I wanted to write an epic, so that was that. There is a thing too that people want shorter films—they say 80 minutes is the new 90 minutes. I think that might grow out of the way that people watch films on their mobile devices and computers, so they want it to be briefer. However, it’s got to be what the movie needs. 

In the last three decades you’ve been making films, have you found that you’ve changed as a filmmaker or in your approach?

Apart from becoming more confident, age also changes things. Ned Rifle is the first movie I’ve ever made where the main characters are a full generation younger than I am. So that’s different, and you write differently and can’t take as much for granted. You might be hearing in your head your voice of yourself at 25, but that was in the mid-1985s; a person who is 25 now in 2015 might be different. So there’s a lot of listening to how younger people talk, and they talk about different things.

The Unbelieveable Truth-Martin Donavan and Adrienne Shelley-copyrighted Possible Films

Did you see Henry Fool as a turning point in your career, or a way to address a different subject matter that you hadn’t previously?

I knew Henry Fool was tackling something different. I knew it was more overtly about the society we live in whereas something like Trust, where they don’t talk about society, but it’s evident there’s a society there—people picketing outside the abortion clinic, the main characters discussion about television being a problem and making people stupid. With Henry Fool it really addressed society and was important to take the thing that was close to the burden and the sustenance of this emerging artist and kind of mythologize the standard traumas and then how it effects the community. It was the first time I was making a movie that was as much about the society I lived in as much as the characters I was paying attention to.

When writing Ned Rifle, did you look at any books or films for reference or inspiration? If so, did you also share those with your actors?

It doesn’t often happen that I need to watch something to help me form my thoughts, but I knew that when I was starting to make Ned Rifle that it would be shaped like a western and would have western movie characteristics—the mission, the quest. One reason was also because Liam didn’t know any westerns. I’d watch classic westerns with him and get another grip of how I saw Ned. We’d watch The Searchers and Red River. For myself, not so much for him, but I found myself watching Clint Eastwood’s The Unforgiven. That was more for the shape of the story, the relentlessness, and the kinds of problems that happen. 

What have you been watching and reading as of late?

I don’t keep up on new movies, I’m pretty casual about that. I’ve been watching Elio Petri movies—he made a number of Italian films of the early 60s and 70s. I’ve been spending a lot of time with Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion; it’s really formally interesting and its subject matter is great. I never knew of him, but I’m starting to collect his films now. This one was actually given to me by one of the crew members when we were shooting Ned Rifle, an Italian guy. He was the electrician and at the end of the shoot he said, “I really want you to see this movie.” In terms of reading, I’ve been back on a Thomas Hardy kick for a couple years.

‘Drunk History’ Web Series Becoming Actual TV Show

In the early days of Funny or Die, there was Pearl the Landlord and Will Ferrell and not much else. Most of the videos and series would probably fall more in the “Die” category, but then there was “Drunk History,” which had a little something for everyone. There’s booze, there’s history, there’s some excellent voiceover work from funny people like Jen Kirkman, and some very famous people being forced to act out their interpretations of history.

Don Cheadle plays Frederick Douglass; Michael Cera opens the series as Alexander Hamilton, and a lot of . Plus, you learn things, sort of! Probably more about the importance of holding your booze than history, but some history, probably. Maybe. Anyway, it’s going to be a real TV show on Comedy Central, which means it might not be as fun because you probably have to tone it down, or it might be even more funnier because it opens the tent for more funny people to participate. Whichever.

Drunk History makes its slightly-larger-screen debut on July 9th. Creator Derek Waters will host the show, which takes “viewers and students of history (the late-night cramming/Cliff Notes version) on a tour of cities across America… to explore their rich culture and history via historical reenactments with a twist… of lime.”

And the cast looks pretty solid. Notable guest stars this season include Lisa Bonet, Connie Britton, a returning Michael Cera, Terry Crews (fresh off his Arrested Development appearance), Dave Grohl, Tony Hale, Kyle Kinane, Natasha Leggero, Stephen Merchant, Bob Odenkirk, Aubrey Plaza, Jason Schwartzman, Adam Scott, Jenny Slate, Bradley Whitford, Kristen Wiig and the Wilson brothers. There are a lot of questions, and this cast has a lot of potential, but what I’m wondering is what president Bradley Whitford will be playing, and how many not-so-subtle West Wing references there will be.

Watch two of the most popular episodes, the premiere with Michael Cera reenacting the death of Alexander Hamilton and a wine-drunk Jen Kirkman narrating the relationship between Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, referring to the latter as “Richard Dreyfuss” and asking if she took her pants off or not.

Aubrey Plaza Kicked Out of MTV Movie Awards

Something pretty unfunny happened at the MTV Movie Awards last night: all of it. In particular there was one incident that, whether planned or not, was so painfully awkward as to make even Will Ferrell seem to regret his involvement—to say nothing of a wholly disinterested Peter Dinklage in the background.

Here’s how Deadline Hollywood tells it:

Will Ferrell was accepting the Comedic Genius Award at tonight’s MTV Movie Awards. Suddenly he had company onstage—Parks & Recreation’s Aubrey Plaza. She ran up and tried to wrestle the award out of Ferrell’s hands. Apparently, it was to hype her own upcoming movie—the August comedy from CBS Films, The To-Do List—whose title was written across her chest.

Aubrey herself seemed pretty dissatisfied with the stunt, if you could call it that, after returning (temporarily) to her seat as if it had all been a big stupid double-dare. In sum, however, a humanizing moment for everyone: even veteran comics can botch their material with all the quiet desperation of an improv 101 class performing for their silent parents. 

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Marc Maron Has a Lot of Very Funny People on His New Show

Marc Maron had a lot of very funny people on his other show, too, but that’s beside the point. The comedian and host of the popular WTF podcast has a new show coming up on IFC, and it appears to be a Louie-esque combination of his professional life (in this case, recording the podcast as opposed to standup) and a scripted narrative where he plays a character based on himself.

The comedy in Maron, for the most part, seems pretty relationship-based, focusing on his parents (Judd Hirsch of Ordinary People plays his dad), his girlfriend, played by Mad Men’s Nora Zehetner, who at one point asks him why he’s cool with her peeing on him but not okay with her making him banana bread (he doesn’t know either and Andy Kindler (Bob’s Burgers), who plays his friend. But with the podcast sections, the roster becomes even more stacked, with, from what we could tell, appearances from Denis Leary, Jeff Garlin, Ken Jeong, Aubrey Plaza and Adam Scott, and hopefully lots more funny people. Maron premieres on IFC on May 3rd, but in the meantime, see who else you can spot in the trailer below.

Daniel Radcliffe In Slow Club’s “Beginners” and Other Celebrities in Music Videos

After Shia LaBoeuf bared all for Sigur Ros yesterday, Daniel Radcliffe is the latest movie star to feature in a music video. In the clip for folk-pop duo Slow Club’s typically gorgeous track “Beginners,” Radcliffe has a dramatic breakdown in a pub, all filmed in one take. (If the teeth-gnashing and fist-shaking weren’t clear enough, it’s obvious that his character is in a bad place from his Hawaiian shirt.) Watch “Beginners” below, and check out some other music videos with celebrity guests.

Slow Club – “Beginners”


The Shoes – “Time To Dance”
Jake Gyllenhaal channels Patrick Bateman as he goes on a killing spree soundtracked by the French dance-pop duo the Shoes.

The Apples In Stereo – “Dance Floor”
This isn’t another Daniel Radcliffe clip; it’s Elijah Wood being transported through time and space to meet indie-pop stalwarts the Apples in Stereo.

Brandon Flowers – “Crossfire”
Killers frontman Brandon Flowers never did anything on a small scale, so it made sense to have Charlize Theron play a warrior on a mission in this video for one of his solo songs. Her?

Father John Misty – “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings”
Aubrey Plaza gets angry, bites/throws things, and goes through some sort of party/nightmare hybrid.

Vampire Weekend – “Giving Up The Gun”
This earlier foray sees Jake Gyllenhaal brandishing a tennis racket in one hand and a handle of whiskey in the other. The video also features cameos from RZA, Lil Jon, and Joe Jonas.

Movies Opening This Weekend, In Order Of How Much We Like Their Trailers

Some people judge a movie based on reviews, other will go see something just because it features a favorite actor. Here, we’re judging this weekend’s offerings based solely on what we see in the trailers and ranking them accordingly.

Prometheus: What more could you want from a movie? Space travel, disaster, Ridley Scott and a stellar cast, including the fantastical Noomi Rapace, make this the trailer to beat this weekend. And it’s going to own the box office, so there’s also that.

Bel Ami: Does this movie, featuring Robert Pattinson as a social-climbing ladies’ man in ancientish Paris, look good? Not really. Does the trailer get us excited? Absolutely. There’s no way that two hours of this powdered-wig seduction would hold our attention, but for a few minutes it’s exciting enough to rank highly.

Dark Horse: The latest from Todd Solondz looks funny, offbeat and perhaps less I-need-a-shower-after-this than his previous work. And even though Selma Blair kind of looks like Katie Holmes is trying to escape from her face, this coming attraction definitely does its job.

Safety Not Guaranteed: Aubrey Plaza and Mark Duplass can sell almost any movie, and this Seattle-based caper about a guy who thinks he’s discovered the secret to time travel doesn’t need a whole lot of help in that category. This movie doesn’t look like it’s going to scratch our blockbuster itch, but if Prometheus is sold out, we’d definitely sneak in.

Lola Versus: We love Greta Gerwig, we really do, but there’s something a bit too post-rom-com about this movie, from the looks of the trailer, to draw us in. Ask again when it’s on TV on a rainy Sunday afternoon, but chances are we won’t be rushing to the multiplex.

Peace, Love and Misunderstanding: Unless you’re taking your mom to the movies for, uh, Father’s Day, no way.

Whit Stillman Returns With ‘Damsels in Distress,’ First New Film in 14 Years

The trailer for Whit Stillman’s newest movie, Damsels in Distress, looks absolutely charming in an honest way, sure to outpace any other 2012 release that might play with whimsy and sardonicism. Starring mumblecore darling Greta Gerwig, it’s about a group of beautiful girls at an East Coast university who seek to prevent suicide in depressed students with a regimen of high culture and formal dance training. It’s been 14 years since Stillman last plumbed the problems of the "urban haute bourgeoisie" in 1998’s The Last Days of Disco, but long waits exist for good reason.

Stillman’s defining characteristic remains his biting wit combined with notions of class and dignity; when depressed girl #1 (played by Aubrey Plaza) says, "You’re just worried that I’ll kill myself and make you look bad," Gerwig responds with, "I’m worried that you’ll kill yourself and make yourself look bad." But there’s not as much meanness in his depictions of the effete lower-upper-middle class as a Noah Baumbach or the relentless twee of a Wes Anderson; he’s more of a formalist referencing classic notions of social structure, with just enough heart in his characters to make you laugh at their intellectual posing and/or roll your eyes at their self-imposed emotional cluelessness. It looks great, is what I mean, and while there’s no release date listed let’s hope they get that out of the way soon enough.

Aubrey Plaza Stars in Ex-Fleet Foxes Music Video, ‘Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings’

Aubrey Plaza has already firmly established herself as Hollywood’s most visible alternative darling, but here’s a further way to stay on top: by appearing in this music video for ex-Fleet Foxes drummer J. Tillman’s song, "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings." She plays a goth brat intent on throwing a fit at a wacky funeral, eating flowers, throwing chairs, and stumbling around in a drunken, bloody mess. You can watch the video at, or listen to the mp3 after the click.


Tillman’s official name is Father John Misty, and he’ll be releasing his debut album Fear Fun on May 1. The song itself a nice, gloomy-sounding folk dirge, a bit fuzzier than the work he did with the Foxes. Plaza remains the defiant alt-queen, of course.