Milo: SXSW Review
SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST, NARRATIVE SPOTLIGHT
Ken Marino, Gillian Jacobs, Peter Stormare, Stephen Root, Patrick Warburton, Mary Kay Place
Jacob Vaughan makes irritable bowel syndrome look like a cakewalk in gross-out comedy.
AUSTIN — How a festival with a "Midnighters" section could slot a film like Milo anywhere else is as puzzling as, well, what would compel someone to tell the story of a guy with a vengeful little monster living in his colon. Director/co-writer Jacob Vaughan got big laughs by informing a SXSW audience that this is a "very personal film"; playing against earnestness will attract viewers at fests, but careful marketing will be needed to drum up a cult following in the outside world.
Ken Marino plays the unfortunate man in question, Ken, who has had painful gastrointestinal issues his whole life. His doctor says poor stress management is to blame, but it's hard to de-stress when your manager (Patrick Warburton, jockeying to win this year's Gary Cole Award for most infuriating onscreen boss) moves your desk to a men's room and tells you to fire half your co-workers. Or when your mother (Mary Kay Place), not content to have lots of icky sex with her much younger second husband, invites a fertility doctor to dinner to discuss your failure to get your wife (Gillian Jacobs) pregnant.
It doesn't get easier with the help of a hippy-dippy hypnotherapist (Peter Stormare, giving the most cartoonish performance in a deliberately cartoonish production) whose own parrot calls a "witch doctor." But the doc does wind up witnessing the nature of Ken's woes: When he gets so upset he can't contain himself, he writhes until he's unconscious (an Incredible Hulk reference late in the film makes the obvious comparison), whereupon -- cover your ears, kids -- a beast crawls out of his anus, runs off to kill the source of his misery, and returns to climb back inside Ken before he wakes up.
Still with us? This is where Stormare's shrink pulls out ancient Mayan texts to identify the symbiotic relationship Ken has with "Milo" (who looks like E.T.'s ugly cousin with a mouth full of shark teeth), explaining that Ken must bond with the beast if he wants to end the killing spree.
Readers will be right to assume that Milo offers more than one painfully long explosive-diarrhea scene, but may be surprised just how far the excrement flies here -- Marino, game to play the role straight, spends much of the film in a feces-stained shirt; he not only pantomimes having a baby-sized critter climb up into him, he tries to feed the thing mice while it's inside. (Finally, a new chapter in gerbilling lore.)
It's unlikely that those who aren't laughing now will laugh when they see all this onscreen; those who are may not keep it up for 83 minutes. Though Vaughan and his co-writer Benjamin Hayes work a few non-fecal jokes in between the action scenes, the film plays like a feature-length version of an absurdist comedy sketch only a team like Mr. Show should approach. Milo will certainly be talked about, but whether it can attract a cult remains to be seen.
Production Companies: New Artists Alliance, Floren Shieh Productions, Duplass Brothers Productions
Cast: Ken Marino, Gillian Jacobs, Peter Stormare, Stephen Root, Patrick Warburton, Mary Kay Place
Director: Jacob Vaughan
Screenwriters: Jacob Vaughan, Benjamin Hayes
Producers: Adele Romanski, John Suits, Gabriel Cowan
Executive producers: Mark Duplass, Jay Duplass, John Norris, Clay Floren, Aimee Shieh, Kerry Johnson, Dallas Sonnier, Jack Heller
Director of photography: James Laxton
Production designer: Lindsey Moran
Music: Ted Masur
Costume designer: Anthony Tran
Editor: David Nordstrom|
Sales: Jessica Lacy, ICM
No rating, 83 minutes