Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Miki (short): Will the Thrill’s Next 100 Days

A prominent radio psychologist once told us every comedian she ever knew wrestled with depression. That is certainly true of “Will the Thrill.” However, he has perfectly good reasons for being down. His mother has just died, but one of her final requests might help him to finally face issues from his past in Miki (trailer here), Weiko Lin’s short film adaptation of his award-winning play, which starts a week of special screenings this Friday in Los Angeles.

Will never really knew what to make of his mother’s conversation to Buddhism, so he is rather put off when her spiritual advisor-sifu tells the comedian he must marry within the next one hundred days to allow her soul to rest peacefully, according to Buddhist teachings. To add insult to awkwardness, he also informs Will his mother wanted his childhood sweetheart to have her prayer beads.

Much to Will’s surprise, his mother had kept in touch with Miki. When he was thirteen, he was convinced she was the one—and frankly he probably still believes it. Unfortunately, she moved away and eventually married. After several self-destructive stops on his college tour, Will finally reconnects with Miki. It is a difficult reunion for both, but Will just might begin to understand some of the darkness Miki went through during the intervening years.

In all honesty, Miki might be the most emotionally devastating short you will see in the next one hundred Sundays. As the titular Miki, Karli Hall tears the audience’s collective heart out. It is just a quietly overwhelming performance, better than the vast majority of work you will see in features. Likewise, Eric Martig’s portrayal of Will the Thrill is unusually brave, bringing to mind Jeff Bridges’ aggressive self-loathing in The Fisher King.

Miki is very much about what ails both damaged people, but it is also intriguing for the way it portrays the American Buddhist convert experience. Good old Will can’t help remarking on the pasty whiteness of his mother’s sifu (played by Daniel Van Kirk, who makes a strong impression during his brief screen time). Yet, the film clearly implies her Buddhist faith was a source of strength for his mother and also for the Jewish Miki.

Lin helms with a deep sensitivity and a sure hand. Presumably, he had to greatly condense his stage-play, but he still covers a great deal of emotional ground in twenty-five minutes. Regardless of length, Miki is a mature and accomplished work. Very highly recommended, it opens this Friday (5/12) in LA, at the Laemmle Playhouse 7.