THE SKELETON TWINS
Not sure what the title “The Skeleton Twins” is meant to suggest, but knowing that the film is about estranged twin siblings Milo (Bill Hader) and Maggie (Kriste Wiig) and the subject of suicide, you know it’s not meant to be anything good. “Skeleton” could mean an emaciated person or something reduced to its essential parts, but knowing the dark theme of this drama/comedy I chose to think the framework was more aligned with the idiom of “a person or thing that casts gloom over a joyful occasion”, that joyful occasion being “life”.
From director Craig Johnson comes a smart, funny and dark story that deals with suicide, depression, infidelity, estrangement, inappropriate love and more. If you are a fan of Saturday Night Live then it comes as no surprise of the chemistry between Wiig and Hader and their comedic talent. What is surprising is how deftly they handle the depressing and dramatic themes sprinkled with the humor they are known for. The humor doesn’t detract from the story but enhances it in a strange, depressing way. You don’t feel depressed. You may feel guilty that you’re not sad because the humor shines through even in the gloomiest moments. I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing. Johnson handles the theme of suicide in a delicate way. He starts the film with both the brother attempting suicide and the sister contemplating it. Through Milo’s failed suicide attempt he reconnects with his sister, Maggie. She instructs him to come stay with her and her husband, Lance (Luke Wilson) for a while. Even though they’re estranged, these twins are connected in a very dark way. We don’t learn of the reason they’re estranged until much later in the movie and that comes as a much unexpected surprise. (no spoilers here)
The movie moves smoothly as Milo and Maggie reconnect. Johnson weaves storylines dealing with Maggie and Lance’s marriage, Milo reconnecting with who appears to be a lost love and the unsatisfying realizations that no one is completely happy. Maggie admits to Milo that she sleeps around because she doesn’t want to get pregnant, yet Lance thinks they’re both ready to start a family. Milo surprises a man from his past and we find it’s not your typical young, gay first-love romance he’s revisiting.
We learned early on that Milo and Maggie’s dad killed himself by jumping off a bridge. A brief cameo by Joanna Gleason as their mother demonstrates why they are the way they are and why everyone is estranged from each other.
At times when the humor creeps in, this is where we see the comedic chemistry between Hader and Wiig. When she convinces him to get his teeth cleaned (she’s a dental hygienist) and he gets high on laughing gas and he convinces her to get high on laughing gas too. We learn of their love for each other through the humor in this scene. Again we witness it when Maggie is angry at Milo and he lip syncs his way back into her heart. Maggie eventually joins in with him and we are all lip syncing along with them. One of the best lip synching scenes in a movie. (Wiig’s signature “go to” move as seen in Bridesmaids also).
Both Milo and Maggie have secrets and these secrets eventually come to light and drives a wedge between them. The journey of the “Skeleton Twins” is intriguing, fun, dark and edgy, but makes for an entertaining ride. Witnessing these two playing suicidal brother and sister is worth the ticket price alone.
Starring: Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Luke Wilson and Ty Burrell.
Director: Craig Johnson.
Company: Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions
Now Showing: In Select Theaters and On DVD: Dec 16, 2014
Rating: R for language, some sexuality.