The Skeleton Twins is a family drama that stars Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader as siblings. My initial thoughts upon first hearing about this movie (along with, I’m sure, many other Saturday Night Live fans)? Count me in! But do not be mistaken. This territory is far off from what we are used to seeing this duo in. This movie definitely falls along more of the “drama” side of “dramedy”. It’s difficult to pull off such a serious movie with such well-known comedic actors but there are definitely some very comedic moments. Together they actually make for a great mix of seriousness and hilarity. Wiig is more familiar to drama than Hader. She’s had roles in movies such as All Good Things, Friends with Kids, and last year’s Girl Most Likely. Hader, however, hasn’t really done anything dramatic. He is obviously best known for Saturday Night Live, and any feature film comedy roles he has had tend to be side characters. This is the first time he has taken on both a serious and a lead role. And he nails it. There’s no question that Wiig and Hader have the comedic chops, but they bring this story to life in a way that perfectly blends comedy with touching sibling drama.
The film focuses on the reunited twins, Maggie (Wiig) and Milo (Hader), brought together after a failed suicide attempt(s). The opening scene sets the perfect tone for the rest of the movie in which the required suicide note ends with a smiley face. Both twins are struggling with their adult life on account of a not-so-great childhood. At least when they were kids, they were suffering together. But now they live on opposite sides of the country and haven’t spoken to each other in a decade. Maggie invites Milo to live with her and her husband, Lance (Luke Wilson), who Milo describes best as resembling a “golden Labrador”; cute, charming, and extremely loyal. Reunited, the twins are forced to reflect on their childhood but also must face up to what is making them so miserable in their present lives.
Wiig and Hader are the driving forces of this movie. The character of Milo is most definitely a cliché one that we have seen over and over. But the brilliance in both Hader’s performance and Mark Heyman and Craig Johnson’s script is that Milo acknowledges his unoriginality. A gay, depressed, failed actor who makes a living waiting tables are just things about Milo. We quickly see that these things are not what define him. The same can be said for Wiig’s character, Maggie. The word I would use to best describe her situation is…stuck. She has a great house, in a great town, with a great husband. So why does she secretly sleep with her scuba instructor? Through both the writing and our leading character’s amazing performances, we get a true insight into who Milo and Maggie are. They make the unoriginal original.
This film deals with the very serious subject matter of depression and suicide. It’s hard to think of any other actors who could have starred as Milo and Maggie while preserving the film’s unique tone, because although this movie is kind of a downer…it’s also kind of uplifting. Wiig and Hader are completely believable as siblings. This is probably due to the fact that they spent years working together on SNL, an environment where actors are forced to stretch their talents to the limit and not be intimidated by the fear of failing. They have an automatic chemistry on the screen together and you can tell that they are both taking risks in their performances. Together they succeed, which is very much suited for a movie about two siblings who themselves work as a great team in a trying environment.
Even after all the praise I will give this film, I can still see people walking out from it disappointed. My best advice to people interested in seeing this film is to walk into the theater with an open mind. Yes, whenever we see the names of Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader we are pretty much trained to automatically think “laugh out loud comedy”. Heck, even I will admit it was difficult for me to put the image of Hader’s flamboyant recurring SNL character of Stefon, the” New York City correspondent” for Weekend Update, out of my mind while watching Skeleton Twins. Some people will walk in expecting some outrageous laughs mixed with maybe some light drama. Although this movie is definitely not the feel good movie of the year, I still believe it is a perfect mix of salty and sweet. Milo’s blunt pessimism and Wiig’s “whore-like tendencies” (actual quote from the movie, not my own description) are not hopeless traits. In fact, the film gets an unusually hopeful vibe once we see that even this “gruesome twosome” can float in this giant watery mess that we call life.