THE SKELETON TWINS (M)
Let’s not dance around the dire circumstances in which this delicately poised comedy-drama starts out. An estranged sister and brother have just retreated after nearing the brink of ending it all. Back when Maggie (Kristen Wiig) and Milo (Bill Hader) were children, their father took one more step and took his own life. Now here they are in their mid-30s, virtually daring history to repeat itself.
In spite of its bleak beginnings, The Skeleton Twins soon syncs up to an engaging comic rhythm that will ultimately propel the film to a brighter, better place. Maggie and Milo have not seen other for a decade. Now they must live together. While this is undoubtedly tough stuff to be selling to all comers, there is a tenderness and truly earned uplift to this tale that will resonate with receptive viewers. And given the comedic track record of Wiig ( Bridesmaids) and Hader (ex- Saturday Night Live), it hardly hurts that the film can be very amusing when it needs to be. Heartbreak is always but a breath away in The Immigrant, an intense period drama that is as beautiful as it is bleak.
The year is 1921, and two Polish sisters have arrived in New York to start a new life in America. Magda (Angela Sarafyan) is immediately thrown in quarantine, and could be deported pending a final ruling by authorities.
This leaves the older Ewa (Marion Cotillard) stranded in more ways than one. A well-dressed stranger offers his assistance. Ewa has no choice but to accept.
Bruno (Joaquin Phoenix) runs a burlesque show on the Lower East Side. It is actually a front for a prostitution ring, but Ewa won’t find that out until it is far too late.
Though there is a distinct unease to the relationship of Ewa and Bruno as it slowly develops, there is a clear connection as well. Each sees a little of who they might have been in the other, had life dealt them a better hand.
½ The writing-directing debut of Australian actor Josh Lawson ( Any Questions for Ben?) is an erratic episodic comedy about just how funny (and much more often, unfunny) a fetish can be. Among the saucy-seedy japes presented for your amusement are such thigh-slappers as mock sexual assault (Lawson himself plays a bloke whose partner keeps hassling him to rape her) and a husband who may or may not be interfering with his nagging wife after he drugs her asleep each evening. Isn’t that just lovely? Some sketchy interludes do have their moments, such as a beautifully performed vignette about a call-centre operator acting as interpreter between a dirty-minded deaf man and a distracted phone-sex practitioner.
However, the film as a whole generally follows a line of humour where dysfunction, discomfort and sometimes, even distress, lead only to laughter-free dead ends. ½ Seems Liam Neeson no longer has the “mature vengeance” demographic all to himself. Denzel Washington wants his cut of the aged-aggression market, and he wants it now.
In all honesty, The Equalizer is no better nor worse than the punishing pulp Neeson has been pounding out since the surprise blockbuster success of Taken in 2008.
The same underlying principles apply here.
Some bonkers badsters (Russians!) have irked our worldly, weary hero (Washington’s character works in the American equivalent of a Bunnings Warehouse!).
So, in accordance with Hollywood convention, this old campaigner is quite within his rights to kill his way up the enemy’s chain of command until the movie ends.
Very violent and very long, so best seen by hardline action fans, and best avoided by those who are not.