Article first published as Sundance 2014 Movie Reviews: 'The Skeleton Twins,' 'Obvious Child,' and 'Happy Christmas' on Blogcritics.
What would Sundance be without low budget comedies? The best of the bunch include a duo of Saturday Night Live alumni, a fired SNL comedienne, and a tale of self-destruction from a Sundance alumnus.
The Skeleton Twins
stars Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader as a pair of the world’s most
loveable twins. Milo (Hader) has just been hospitalized after an
attempted suicide the same day Maggie (Wiig) is stopped from doing the
same thing when she gets the call about Milo. Now, Milo comes to live
with Maggie for a while as the two begin to deal with their 10-year
separation and come to terms with themselves and each other.
Wiig and Hader are phenomenal together — something we already know —
and first-time director Craig Johnson makes a hilarious, sweet, and
sometimes demented dysfunctional comedy. Luke Wilson plays Wiig’s
husband Lance, who just may be the nicest guy on the planet, while Ty
Burrell plays Hader’s high school teacher flame Rich, who struggles with
his own sexuality. Johnson and co-writer Mark Heyman have crafted a
fantastic debut and should be headed for theaters not just because of
the star power. The film speaks for itself with Hader turning on
audiences’ waterworks when they’re not doubled over during the world’s
funniest lip syncing duet.
Obvious Child finds former-SNL
member Jenny Slate starring as Donna; a woman in her late 20s whose
life is getting the upper hand while she’s stuck in her own arrested
development. She spends her nights performing standup comedy where one
night her boyfriend becomes disgruntled over her true life anecdotes,
confesses he’s sleeping with her friend, and dumps her in the bathroom.
Not knowing how to deal with the breakup she gets drunk and sleeps with
Max (Jake Lacy) and plays a wicked game of Russian roulette with her
vagina and figures out she’s pregnant. Now, Donna must face the
best/worst Valentine ’s Day ever as she awaits her planned abortion
while dealing with the rollercoaster of starring in her own real-life
During Jenny Slate’s short-lived stint on SNL, I never found
her particularly funny. She never stood out against the rest of the
female performers, but maybe her firing was for the best.
Writer/director Gillian Robespierre expands her original short of the
same name from 2009 to deliver what will wind up being one of 2014’s
funniest movies. Slate has a tendency to get a little too extreme with
some of the material, but her performance is kept grounded by the
supporting cast. Lacy makes a fantastic rom-com lead and Gaby Hoffman
gets to squeeze in her own hilarity as Donna’s best friend. Be warned, Obvious Child is a raunchy affair of the highest order, but has a sweet streak to complement its raw honesty.
comes from Sundance regular Joe Swanberg as he brings the
self-destructive tale of a young woman named Jenny (Anna Kendrick) who
has just broken up with her boyfriend. She moves in with her brother
Jeff (Swanberg) to get her life in order, but only manages to make it
worse. After blacking out at a party with her friend Carson (Lena
Dunham), Jeff’s wife Kelly (Melanie Lynskey, who gets to use her real
accent!) doesn’t trust her living there with a baby in the house.
Eventually, the three begin to realize that they may need each other
more than they ever knew.
Swanberg has made his second most-mainstream film yet with Happy Christmas. Coming on the heels of his last film, Drinking Buddies,
it’s nice to see Swanberg hasn’t lost his touch with presenting
real-life situations on film. Kendrick is amazing as always with Lynskey
showing some real vulnerability behind Kelly as she slowly starts
coming out of her shell. Mark Webber is also a nice touch as Jenny’s
pot-dealer turned possible boyfriend even if it was a little odd to see
Stephen Stills groping Scott Pilgrim’s sister. Considering how
Swanberg’s films are typically released, we should see this on VOD soon
enough, or eventually on Netflix. A great choice either way.
Photos courtesy of Sundance Institute