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'The Spoils Before Dying' react: Sex, murder, and all that epic Eric Jonrosh jazz

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Katrina Marcinowski/IFC

The wine guzzling, success-obsessed, insane writer Eric Jonrosh is back with a new film based on another of his best-selling novels: The Spoils Before Dying. Just as in The Spoils of Babylon, Eric introduces his long-lost film adaptation masterpiece, Dying, all the while giving the audience ridiculously funny tidbits about the film and how it was made. For example, this film is the first of its kind to be made in Bastille-O-Scope and Eric tried but ultimately failed to coin the film term “Post-Post-Modern-Neo-Fakism.”

Eric, once again played brilliantly by Will Ferrell, still has all of his strange quirks. He still demands glasses and glasses of wine (though in the first two episodes we have yet to see the return appearance of his little brandy glass as well), and he still loves Doris more than we’ll ever know. And of course, he has again given his ex-wife with “the filthy mouth” (Kristen Wiig) a prominent role in the film, despite her apparently engaging him in relationship filled with compulsive lies and sexual humiliations—which left him wondering, “Why did I play with that fire in the first place?”

But back to The Spoils Before Dying. Jonrosh describes his second masterpiece as a film with “jazz, adventure, cats, pills, booze, and coppers” that is “at its heart, a murder mystery. At its soul, a jam session.” And with those hilarious and eloquently growled statements, let’s delve into the first two episodes of this insane, epic IFC comedy series.

The Spoils Before Dying follows The Wire’s Michael Kenneth Williams as jazz pianist Rock Banyon who is mourning and solving the death of his lover and acclaimed jazz singer Fresno Foxglove, played to absolute perfection by Maya Rudolph. Honestly guys, I think she was born to play this role and to sing the theme of the film, hilariously entitled “The Theme Song To The Spoils Before Dying.” Of course, the mystery of Fresno’s death won’t be an easy one to solve since Fresno’s body was found with another, a scientist named Wilbur Stygamiun and Rock must deal with two cops breathing down his throat, one of which released a one-hit wonder years prior and still seems pretty bitter about it. The cops tell him that if he cannot uncover who really killed Fresno, he’ll be deader than dead. In fact he’ll be telling “deadtime stories about corpseback riding.” Yup, those are the kind of gems you’ll be missing if you don’t watch this miniseries.

The film opens with Rock narrating his story while lying seemingly dead on a slab, but how did he get there? What happened to Fresno? And how is it possible that police were actually right about Rock’s untimely death?

Rock explains that he should have known from the last moment he saw Fresno that something was wrong when she didn’t accept money from him and took a big money gig that he just couldn’t dig. Rock’s investigation has him on the run to Mexico where he runs into Delores O’Dell (Wiig), another jazz singer who performs a hilarious song about “booze and pills.” No seriously, those are pretty much the only two words in the song. Rock and Delores were once lovers and become so again. But he can’t outrun his old love that easily. Fresno speaks to him from beyond the grave two times, once to warn him about finishing his investigation (“DOOM” awaits him!) and the second time her dead body speaks to him about her killer and how the coroner definitely kisses the bodies in his morgue. When Rock wonders during her ghostly appearance if Fresno really is dead, she tells him “The Dead Sea takes a look at me and says ‘Damn that lady is dead.’” But later in the morgue, she takes it back… a little.

Fresno: “It’s possible I’m not and will turn up in a plot twist somewhere very much alive.”

Rock: “What are the chances?”

Fresno: “Slim, baby.”

While in Mexico City, Rock is being followed by an ethnically ambiguous man who likes to skip when stalking Rock. When the two finally have an epic fight, their shadows seem to be fighting in completely different ways than the people themselves. Rock eventually escapes Mexico City with Dolores and a random cat that makes me remember why I’m absolutely a dog person.

The cops catch up with Rock and Dolores in LA where they all sit and tensely talk about the investigation, then bond over Dolores’ chocolate and banana cake (which actually has no chocolate or banana and is instead a plain white frosting cake that looks pink because Dolores cut her finger and has motor oil in place of the chocolate).

Finally we’re back to Eric closing out the first two chapters of his epic murder tale. He mentions during the two episodes that he has written many best-sellers including The Spoils of Ziirtec. Are we getting a glimpse of what’s next on the IFC docket? Let’s hope so because I could watch this for hours.  

The Spoils Before Dying will continue airing Thursday and Friday on IFC.

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