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September 29, 2014 - Image 6

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6A -- Monday, September 29, 2014

The Michigan Daily -- michigandaily.com

6A - Monday, September 29, 2014 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

'Parenthood' excE

Adventure Club was among the many acts performing at Freedom Hill Amphitheater in Sterling Heights last weekend.
Wii lifts 'Twins'

'Saturday Night Live'
alums elevate flawed
dramedy
By BRIAN BURLAGE
Senior Film Editor
In director Craig Johnson's
sophomore effort, "The Skeleton
Twins," the first thing we see is a
man wearing
a mask. It's not B-
a superhero The Skeleton
mask, and
it's not quite Twins
a Halloween AtThe Michigan
mask either. Theater
Rather, as the
manleansover Roadside Attractions
the camera
we see that it's a happy medium,
a seemingly off-brand version of
a Pennywise/Frank Anderson
hybrid that's too endearing to be
scary. And from the first second
of the first scene, the film centers
itself on the idea that people wear
all kinds of masks. Each charac-
ter, however far from or close to
normal, hides behind their self-
constructed fagades, barriers and
lies. For 93 minutes, wall after wall
is built and then breached, until it
becomes cyclical. The real prob-
lem is, in being so determined to
bury their mistakes, the characters
obscure themselves from us, the
viewers, aswell.
Between the two of them, Bill
Hader ("Superbad") and Kristen
Wiig ("Bridesmaids") have 15 years
of experience at "Saturday Night
Live." Theyare, at heart, two of the
goofiest and most original talents
the show has produced, especially

as Wiig's big-haired Gilly and Had-
er's gossipy socialite Stefon became
sideshow staples. Since their depar-
ture from "SNL," the two have
steadily maintained the wacky
friendship that defines their col-
laborative success. "Having worked
together really helped me per-
sonally," Hader stated in a recent
interview,"because I was able to be
vulnerable around Kristen. It was a
new kind of part for me, and it was
nice beingthere withsomeone you
knew had your back and who you
could fail in front of" Wiig added"
shortly after, "And we have a very
brother-and-sister vibe in reallife."
Hader and Wiig play Milo and'
Maggie, a brother-sister team
dubbed "The Gruesome Two-
some" by their father when they
were younger. When we first see
them as kids, they are, like their
father, wearing masks. But they're
happy. Autumn light fills the room
they roughhouse in, and it falls on
their backs as they play outside by
the pool, laughing and giggling
freely. The movie itself keeps this
feel of autumn; a sad air of decay
infiltrates nearly every scene. Their
lives string along like a single pro-
longed Halloween night, filled with
mystery, darkness and strangeness
that each seem, despite the duo's
best efforts, entirely inescapable.
Only when we learn that Milo and
Maggie impose this hardship on
themselves do we truly understand
how farbehindthe masksthey hide.
The movie was co-written by
Johnson and Mark Heyman, whose
work includes "The Wrestler" and
"Black Swan." it's easy to imagine
their creative process - two friends
in a room juggling lines, tossing
them back and forth without hav-

ing a clear sense of direction. Many
of the scenes transpire in this way,
and depend on the dialogue and
the character's subtle energies.
Meaningful conversations build
around seemingly inconsequen-
tial things like long-sleeved shirts,
Halloween costumes and goldfish.
Hader and Wiig's performances
are both thoughtful and heartfelt.
In moments of unease or despair,
they use the gravity of their talent
to keep the scene from falling apart.
Hader, in particular, delivers a con-
fident and powerful performance
as a sexually frustrated (and heart-
broken) gay man, driven to insidi-
ous measures by his own unfailing
desire for Rich (Ty Burrell, ABC's
"Modern Family"), his high school
English teacher. Wiig's character
Maggie, meanwhile, is allegedly
happy in her two-year marriage to.
Lance (Luke Wilson, TV's "Enlight-
ened"), but sleeps with several
"bad" men on the side.
What makes "Skeleton Twins"
so difficult to digest are the char-
acters' repeated, self-aware indul-
gences in the very things that
harm them - and others - most.
These issues comprise so much of
the film's drama, and after several
of them are actually resolved, the
characters simply create new ones.
Their self-involvement and inward
conflict become exhausting. It's like
they want to suffer. They want to
remain within their microcosm of
mutual self-torture. And as strong
as the script and performances
may be, the idea that a brother and
sister, two best friends united by
their unique place in the world,
would prefer emotional turmoil for
themselves and for each other just
doesn't hold up.

After five seasons of tear-jerking
greatness, "Parenthood" has
established itself as one of TV's
warmest
and most
comforting Parenthood
shows.
"Parenthood" hursdaysllpm
is the° kind NBC
of show you
watch after a long day of classes
or on a quiet Saturday night, the
Bravermans perfect company for a
sleepy room with the faint buzz of
activity coming from the hallway.
To use a metaphor that would
infuriate Max Braverman,
"Parenthood" is the television
equivalent of a warm bowl of
soup. Yet underneath the feel-
good family focus, there's a
characteristic dramatic substance
- "Parenthood" doesn't shy
away from the grittier aspects of
family life, like marital strife and
illness. The characters seem real
and the events don't happen in a
vacuum. One Braverman's struggle
soon becomes the entire family's
business, and they must work
through their issues collectively, as
afamily.
The sixth (and final) season
premiere of "Parenthood" sets
up this year's main conflict with
virtuosity and grace. Patriarch
Zeek Braverman (Craig T. Nelson,
"Coach") collapses during a
birthday Vegas getaway and
shows a troubling lack of regard
for maintaining his well-being.
He leaves the hospital against
doctor's orders, gambling on his
health to literally gamble at the
hotel. Showrunner Jason Katims
hinted that one event would tie all
the Braverman storylines together
for the final 13 episodes, and this
is certainly a great one. Zeek has
had a heart condition for a while,
but the possibility of losing the
glue of the family, the stubborn
father they need to maintain the
mythical Braverman icon, could be
one of the most ambitious stories
"Parenthood"hasever told.
Speaking of ambitious, Adam
(Peter Krause, "Six Feet Under")
andKristina(MonicaPotter,"Patch
Adams") are finally ready to open

a

The back of your head is ridiculous,
their charter school for special
needsyouth. Lastseason,Kristina's
sudden decisionto just buildaschool
seemed a little ridiculous, but the
plot has a refreshing urgency once
their son Max (Max Burkholder,
"The Purge") decides he's not ready
to attend schoolyet.
Burkholder is a phenomenal
actor, flawlessly presenting what
it's like to grow up with Asperger's
and the fear that comes along
with never understanding the
motivation behind the other kids'
cruelty. His parents react to his
request for eternal homeschooling
with appropriate respect. They
keep quiet and let him decide to
attend Chambers Academy on his
own terms. Out of everything to
be missed from new episodes of
"Parenthood," the chance to see
Max navigate his teen years (and
his parents guiding him along
the way) will be one of the most
significant losses.
Though "Parenthood" has
touched on pretty much every
family drama trope in the book,
the undercurrent of every issue is
that it's impossible to handle alone.
Amber (Mae Whitman,"The Perks
of Being a Wallflower") tries to
keep her pregnancy a secret, but
confessingto cousin Haddie (Sarah
Ramos, "American Dreams")
is cathartic. Amber can't figure
out whether she's happy about
the pregnancy, lt-alone whether
she wants -to actually keep the

baby. Haddie gives her the sage
advice to spill everything to her
mom, because that's what family
is for - sharing the burden of
personal struggle, helping but not
overstepping.
But aside from all the feel-
good elements of the episode,
"Parenthood" proves it's still
capable of a good gut-punch. Joel
(Sam Jaeger, "Take Me Home")
and Julia (Erika Christensen,
"Swimfan") are stillseparated after
last season. Seeing them apart is
just painful, because it's obvious
that they're perfect for each other,
and Joel is an amazing father. Joel
tries to kiss her in an emotional
moment, and when Julia pulls away
and looks at her husband like she
wishes more than anything she
could kiss him back, it's a poignant
moment.
It's a shame that we've only
got twelve more weeks with the
Braverman, but if this premiere
is any indication, the final season
is sure to be a treat. There's no
shortage of things to smile at
(baby Aida is walking!), but plenty
to provide a fix for melodrama
enthusiasts (literally any scene
with Drew). Whatever happens,
it's comforting to know that the
Bravermans will stand together
and support one another through
it all. Unpretentious and simple,
familiar but never 'predictable -
"Parenthood" is richer than the
best cup of chickennoodle.

0

TV REVIEW
Revitalized 'Key & Peele' soars in opener

By AKSHAY SETH - would phrase it: "THESE After years peppered with gape- sketch entry "Saturday Night an unsullied statuette. And Luther
ManagingArts Editor COLSQUARE-LOVING, JON- inducing snubs, the Comedy Central Live" wasn't even in the pool. Fred wept. He sobbed.
POOERT-WORSHIPPING mainstay rolled into the 66th Emiys Armisen and Carrie Brownstein's But Comedy Central took note.
Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan MOTHERFUCKERS WON'T withmomentum,sittingsnugbehind "Portlandia" was still too involved The fourth season premiere of
Peele have a chip on their collective GIVE US ANY GODDAMN nominations for hairstyling, makeup with its cast of weirdo Portlandians. "Key & Peele," more than just
comedy-duo shoulder. Or as Luther EMMYS. Why do we have this and evenaglancingnod atthe show's Based on merit alone, "Inside Amy perpetuatingthegoofybrand ofloud,
- Obama's limp-dick Peabody? YOU KNOW often hilariously memorable musical Schumer"shouldhave won, but alas, physical comedy often delivered by
explosively WHO ELSE HAS A PEABODY. NO. pieces. But the piece-de-resistance, its ratingswere too low. All roads led its leading duo with such crackling
caustic BECAUSE NOBODY OR THEIR the chef-d'oeuvre, the Holy of Holies to Luther. Then swooped in Colbert: precision, showcases a revamped,
presidential & Peele GRANDDADDY'S FART STAIN wasfinally-finallythatoh-so-sweet that pasty, wrinkle-ridden face; the relaunched product. Rather than
"anger Wednesdays10:30pm KNOWS WHAT A FUCKING bump up to "Outstanding Writing filthy talons on its crow's-feet - like the typical10-to-13-episode slate we
translator" Comedy Central PEABODY IS. NOBODY.Shaklaik." For A Variety Series." Perennial all those years before - sinking into saw in previous years, the upcoming
five months will feature 22 weekly
installments, leaving room for a
oD 0 S slew ofnew characters in additionto
* 1 1L A Luther-thatdrewusin.
It's an expectable approach to a
£ somewhat vague problem: throw
money and time at a show in an
,m attempt to save it from becoming
stale, or in this specific case, attract
industry approval. Part of those
efforts are visible right off the bat.
In lieu of the clunkily digestible
format used in past seasons -
block of sketches + studio audience
interaction/exposition + another
block of sketches - "Key & Peele"
opts to scrap all those bits with the
pair doing live comedy in front of
an audience entirely. Instead, we
get a larger sketch, sprinkled piece-
by-piece into the pauses between
smaller sketches, to give the
30-minute runtime asmoother feel.
The format could achieve what
wf it's intendingto,butinorder to do so,
must lean heavily on the strength of
the larger piece that ties the episode
ETE together.Intheseasonpremiere,that
larger sketch is just Key and Peele,
HP.playing an exaggerated version of
themselves, drivinglistlesslyto some
unspecified location. Don't worry,
. & M . Ethere's no hidden catch or ethereal
punchline (perhaps, maybe a lazy
reference to "True Detective') - it's
A 2exactly as boring as it sounds. At its
best, the riffing feels mechanical,
no heart or soul of its own, with the
we rest of the dialogue serving only to
foreshadow more sketches: still the
thumpingheartof"Key&Peele.'

Yet in spite of how disappointing
those interludes may be, they don't
diminish the quality ofthe film-scale
production or writing propping up
the show's otherwise laugh-out-
loud, instantly-quotable ("afternoon,
my octeroon") skits. Last week's
funniest bit involved Key's character
filling in a Black family about what
to anticipate at Cousin Delroy's
upcoming wedding to *gasp*
another man. The scripting and
jokes are expectably crisp though
it's the character-work, carried by
veteran actors in small, pulpy roles
- Lance Reddick ("The Wire")
plays a tobacco-gnawing uncle
dumbfounded he won't be allowed
to break into his own rendition of
"It's Raining Men" - that elevates
the sketch from good to it-has-770-
thousand-hits-on-YouTube good.
Of course, that inherently edgy
premise doesn't hurt. But going
deeper, one always-palpable
strength of "Key & Peele" has been
its focused tendency to lampoon
societal inequalities. It's the reason
why having two people of color
hosting their own show is so
necessary, and ultimately, another
reason why we get a chance to
lighten, enliven serious discussions
about those inequalities in everyday
talk.
The ability to anchor race-
sensitive arguments with its
hosts' volatile chemistry is the
essence of what makes "Key &
Peele" great television - a shining
inkling of what "Chappele's Show"
accomplished. And if the millions
of views their sketches net online
are any indication, the world wants
to watch. So despite that lethargic
parody of "True Detective" used
to string together the whole affair,
despite the growing pains, the
season four premiere succeeds in
setting the table for an intriguing,
expanded new chapter inthe show's
legacy. Oras The Valets would putit,
"KEYAND PEELESIS MAHHHH
SHIIIIIHHT.

I
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