Alessandra Mesa and Ani Mesa may be one of the only identical-twin sister pairs to lead a theatrical feature since the Wilde twins, who romanced Andy Hardy in “Andy Hardy’s Blonde Trouble” in 1944. (Yes, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen are — gasp — fraternal twins.) “Superior,” a compelling debut feature from Erin Vassilopoulos, casts the Mesas as Marian and Vivian, estranged siblings who reunite when Marian, a cagey chain-smoker, abruptly returns to their hometown claiming she’s just flown in from headlining a rock concert in Paris. “Kind of suspicious,” notes Vivian’s husband, Michael (Jake Hoffman), who grouses that Marian finished off his carton of milk.
. Yet the script, written by Vassilopoulos (the director) and Alessandra Mesa (the younger of the twin actresses by 14 minutes), reveals that the twins share one thing besides DNA: a terrible taste in men, whether a drag of a spouse who seeks a stay-at-home brood mare or a reptilian abuser (Pico Alexander) who prefers his women drugged and bound.
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The Mesas prove to be nimble, engaging performers. But for a long stretch, it’s unclear whether the menace of the movie that they are in is building toward anything. (There’s a limit to how often an audience is willing to fall for a hallucination.) When Vassilopoulos finally puts her characters in a squeeze, the tension remains oddly vaporous, as though she has tried to trap a thundercloud in a vice. The violence is presented with a deliberate languor that makes it feel insubstantial. Instead, it is the film’s shaggier pleasures that leave an impression, particularly its soundtrack of ’80s electro disco and a physically shaggy ice-cream parlor manager (played by Stanley Simons) who is too stoned to notice that his new employee is two different people.