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Sean P. Means: At Sundance, actors break out of their Hollywood molds
Actress Melanie Lynskey arrives for the opening night premiere of "Hello I Must Be Going" at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)
Bill Hader (left) and Kristen Wiig play Milo and Maggie, dysfunctional twins in the comedy-drama "The Skeleton Twins." Courtesy Sundance Institute
Melanie Lynskey (left) and Joe Swanberg play a married couple in the comedy "Happy Christmas." Courtesy Magnolia Pictures
Aaron Paul plays a father trying to reconnect with his troubled teen son in the drama "Hellion." Courtesy IFC Films
An anthropologist (Anne Hathaway, left) and a musician (Johnny Flynn) strike up a tentative romance in the drama "Song One." Courtesy Sundance Institute
A young drummer (Miles Teller, left) and a hard-driving teacher (J.K. Simmons) are engaged in a battle of wills in "Whiplash." Courtesy Sundance Institute
Aaron Paul, a cast member in "Hellion," is interviewed at the premiere of the film at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival on Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
This photo provided by the Sundance Institute shows, from left, Imogene Wolodarsky, Mark Ruffalo, Ashley Aufderheide and Zoe Saldana, in a scene from the film, "Infinitely Polar Bear." The Sundance Film Festival runs Jan. 16-26, 2014, in Park City, Utah. (AP Photo/Sundance Institute, Seacia Pavao)
Cast member Mark Ruffalo poses at the premiere of the film "Infinitely Polar Bear" during the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Danny Moloshok/Invision/AP)
(Trent Nelson  |  The Salt Lake Tribune)  
Bill Hader at the premiere of  "The Skeleton Twins," part of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the Sundance Film Festival, Saturday January 18, 2014 at the Library Center Theatre in Park City.
(Leah Hogsten  |  The Salt Lake Tribune)  
Imogene Wolodarsky, from left, Zoe Saldana, director Maya Forbes, Mark Ruffalo and Ashley Aufderheide at the premiere screening of ìInfinitely Polar Bear,î  about a manic-depressive father who tries to win back his wife. It made its premiere Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014, at the Eccles Theatre during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City.
(Rick Egan  | The Salt Lake Tribune)   

Melanie Lynskey at the Library Center, in Park City, for the premiere of “Happy Christmas,” at the Sundance Film Festival, Sunday, January 19, 2014.
(Steve Griffin  |  The Salt Lake Tribune)  

Anne Hathaway talks to the press as she attends the premier of the movie “Song One,” directed by Kate Barker-Froyland at the Eccles Theatre during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City on Monday, January 20, 2014.  The movie is about an anthropologist who returns to her estranged family after an accident leaves her brother comatose.
Cast member Anne Hathaway poses at the premiere of the film "Song One" during the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014, in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Danny Moloshok/Invision/AP)
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Bill Hader, “The Skeleton Twins” » We already knew, from “Bridesmaids,” that Kristen Wiig could handle pathos alongside comedy. In director Craig Johnson’s dramedy, Hader plays a struggling actor who attempts suicide, which leads to an uncomfortable reunion with his twin sister (played by Wiig). The old “Saturday Night Live” chemistry is intact in the comic segments, but Hader surprises with a tender performance in the serious passages.

J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash” » Simmons’ early prominent roles, such as a white supremacist inmate in “Oz,” were loaded with menace, but lately he’s become cuddly and comical (as in his upcoming sitcom “Growing Up Fisher” or his Farmers Insurance commercials). In “Whiplash,” he plays a hard-ass jazz band conductor who drives an ambitious drummer (Miles Teller) to the breaking point. Simmons’ fulminating tirades and quiet manipulations are spine-chilling.

Melanie Lynskey, “Happy Christmas” » The New Zealand-born actress gets to use her own accent for a change in Joe Swanberg’s largely improvised comedy, playing a novelist feeling creatively stifled as a stay-at-home mom. Lynskey has done comedy (a recurring role on “Two and a Half Men”) and drama (notably in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”), and “Happy Christmas” lets her show many facets as a woman both delighted and frustrated by motherhood.

Sean P. Means writes The Cricket in daily blog form at www.sltrib.com/blogs/moviecricket. Follow him on Twitter @moviecricket, or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/seanpmeans. Email him at spmeans@sltrib.com.

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