The Skeleton Twins is beautiful, infectious and painfully honest in a way that’s normally reserved for someone that you shared a womb with.
When estranged twins Milo (Bill Hader) and Maggie (Kristen Wiig) are brought back together by mutual suicide attempts they become the critical reflection to each others struggle. Co-writer/director Craig Johnson and co-writer Mark Heyman’s journey through long festering emotional wounds, giant belly laughs and welling tears really would not be the same without Mr. Hader and Ms. Wiig’s ‘air traffic control’ level comic precision underpinning the symbiotic crises of Milo of Maggie.
There are the briefest moments in The Skeleton Twins that it would be easy to dismiss the mental struggle of the two lead characters. That buzz phrase of ‘first world problems’ has so invaded our vernacular that even though Mr. Johnson and Mr. Heyman are dealing with characters with a well of behavioural irrationality, childhood trauma (from their father’s suicide, and bullshit spiritualism and absenteeism from their mother) and the worst kind of impulsive self destruction; there’s a risk that their relatable issues are too familiar. The power though of The Skeleton Twins is undeniable thanks to the authenticity of the connection shared between former Saturday Night Live (SNL) alumni. Despite the impending rock bottom that’s awaiting the duo, there’s a light and humour that constantly peeks through the storm front. Mr. Johnson’s direction places both of these characters as outsiders in the stale hometown so they feel like they’re on an alien landscape.
Mr. Hader has already reached the comedy stratosphere with SNL and in contributing to South Park and yet The Skeleton Twins demonstrates that he’s blooming into a skilful thespian. Milo is a struggling actor in L.A that’s maddeningly familiar with waiting tables. When his long term boyfriend leaves, he’s at the end of his rope and take an extraordinarily extreme gesture. Instead a disappointed gloom, he’s almost lighthearted about the impulse. He’s blissfully deluded about how he toes the line. Ty Burrell’s Rich is a blast from the past and appears to be an older suitor for Milo. The truth of their connection though is agonisingly dark. Mr. Burrell renders a nuanced and precisely portrayed quandary of a character.
Ms. Wiig’s Maggie doesn’t have the showmanship of her brother, instead she’s like a land mine that explodes under the right pressure. Strangled by the ‘perfect’ relationship with Luke Wilson’s sickeningly perfect Lance she’s continually plotting an escape from security, like someone cutting themself out of their safety harness. Ms. Wiig is burdened with the guilt of responsible past decisions that continue to echo in the behaviours of Milo to this day; and yet she’s able to finesse a likability no matter what she’s going through, or subjecting Mr. Wilson’s Lance to.
The Skeleton Twins features one of the scenes of the year by far. Bill Hader’s Milo gets snapped at by his twin sister, Kristen Wiig’s Maggie. With a perplexed and slightly offended snarl he looks at his phone, selects a song and plugs it into the stereo to start blasting ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’ by Starship; and proceeds to lip sync the track, coaxing her into a duet. What results is simply, irresistible. Bravo Mr. Johnson.
The Skeleton Twins will make you hurt until you laugh, don’t ever look back.
[rating=4] and a half
Blake Howard – follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to legacy audio reviews on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.
Directed by: Craig Johnson
Written by: Marl Heyman, Craig Johnson
Starring: Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Ty Burrell, Luke Wilson,