MILO is a film which, when you first hear the description of the film, seems to be better fodder for thirteen year old boys than a film festival crowd. I mean, a guy who thinks a demon is living in his intestines? But trust me when I tell you this film is not only worth seeing, it is one of the best allegories ever put on screen. Truthfully, the description caught my attention, because why go to a film festival and not have some fun? I go to experience films that have not yet been experienced and to find those hidden gems that I might not otherwise see. MILO is definitely one of those hidden gems.
MILO stars Rob Thomas favorite Ken Marino of Veronica Mars and Party Down, as well as his web series, Burning Love. Ken plays Duncan, who has a rough time at work, at home and with his family, which causes him what has become a very familiar symptom for many stress-mongers, gastro-distress. His wife, Sarah (Gillian Jacobs – Community) and his mom (Mary Kay Place – Big Love) are pushing for children, his boss (Patrick Warburton – Seinfeld, Family Guy) disrespects him and adds what seems never ending stress to Duncan’s job, and his absentee father (Stephen Root – Boardwalk Empire, News Radio) is an ever-present issue, but poor Duncan just can’t seem to tell anyone to back off. When things get completely out of control with Duncan passing out on his bathroom floor after a particularly rough moment in the bathroom, he seeks the help of Highsmith (the uproariously talented Peter Stormare), a hypnotherapist. There, all of his issues are revealed in full view of Highsmith, who makes it his mission to help Duncan reign in his demon from a wide-spread killing spree by teaching him to assert himself and not to internalize his stress. The two men hilariously work their way through Duncan’s issues through one violent mishap after another.
Every single cast member provides laugh out loud moments throughout the film. Ken Marino’s ability to play this part straight rather than campy made all the difference. You believe this really is just a regular guy who is in distress and cannot control his stress any longer. That dedication to his character is what helps draw the audience in to Duncan’s story and become invested in him, even in a comedic monster movie. Gillian Jacobs has her moment as well, when she has to assist Duncan in getting the little fella back in his back door. The two standouts for me among the rest of the cast were Kumail Nanjiani as Bobbi, Duncan’s mother’s boy toy and Peter Stormare as Duncan’s nutty, yet caring savior. The chemistry between Marino and every other member of the cast is spot-on and invaluable to the MILO experience.
Screening the film at the Alamo Drafthouse after not having eaten much at all throughout the day, I was looking very forward to sitting down to a buffalo bleu burger and a beer, but considering the subject matter, I did have some hesitation when it came to ordering. I even commented to the person next to me in line that I should have tried harder to talk to Ken, if for no other reason than to ask him if it was safe to eat during the film. I wouldn’t recommend it. The stunts on camera are not overtly raunchy, no more than necessary, but it is a movie about a demon coming out of a guy’s butt, which just does not lend itself to an appetizing meal.
That said, this film is more than a horror-comedy, it’s more than a monster movie; it is a clever allegory showing us the way that stress can affect us in ways we may never realize and if we don’t get a hold on it, that stress can take on a life of it’s own. Director Jacob Vaughan has turned the creature-feature genre on it’s ear with MILO, with the backing and support of none other than a couple of my favorite people, Mark and Jay Duplass, otherwise known as the Duplass Brothers, who were executive producers on the film. The unique approach he has taken to an issue many of us can relate to by turning it into an insanely entertaining film with a stellar cast is very refreshing. MILO is part Gremlins, part Critters with a little bit of E.T. and Mac and Me thrown in to remind us how much Duncan and his demonic stow-away are connected. Somehow Vaughan finds a way for us to be disgusted by, entertained by and sympathetic to the critter all at one time.
I loved this story, this cast and the execution was spot on. I went it to the film as a fan of the cast, expecting a funny film with a lot of potty humor and walked out as a fan of Jacob Vaughan, impressed with his penchant for story telling and ability to take something so ridiculous and make it meaningful. MILO is a film I look forward to sharing with others as much as possible and was the biggest surprise I had this year at the festival.
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