Friday, October 3, 2014

The Skeleton Twins: Movie Review


Establishing selfishness before their more interesting layers, the despondent skeleton twins are more lifeless than they should be.
In a movie marketed as a comedy, stars Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig should have no problem carrying it no matter what kind of difficulties the film may have. But The Skeleton Twins is not a comedy. It’s a very sullen drama that throws in a few scenes of comedy either because Hader and Wiig deserve the chance to make the audience laugh, or because the film wanted to prove how edgy they can be. 2014

Directed by: Craig Johnson

Screenplay by: Mark Heyman, and Craig Johnson

Starring: Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig

The film opens with Milo (Bill Hader) failing at a suicide attempt and winding up at the hospital, and twin sister Maggie (Kristen Wiig) receiving the call while she’s attempting a suicide attempt. Maggie brings the LA-based Milo back to New York with her to repair their fragile relationship and lives. Their reasons for wanting to end their life are gradually revealed throughout the film. Some of the major reveals that occur much later are incredibly well-handled - giving the audience hints of what’s to come but never making it clear how dysfunctional average-looking lives could be. So instead, Milo and Maggie come off as typical middle-aged people dissatisfied with the current state of their life.

While establishing what the current state of their life is like, we meet the supporting characters who really make these skeleton twins come to life. Ty Burrell plays Rich Levitt, a book-store manager who is at first very disturbed by the sudden appearance of Milo but eventually relents a little as the homosexual Milo is very clearly drawn to this man. Burrell cleverly walks the line between sympathetic and then giving hints at unclear motives that erase the sympathy without erasing the importance of his character. Boyd Holbrook plays a scuba diving instructor who encourages the unstable Maggie to cross a line. And last but definitely not least, Luke Wilson plays Maggie’s affable husband Lance. A man who is happy and satisfied to be in a loving relationship, a man who is happy and satisfied to be in his outdoors job, a man who is excited at the possibility of being a father, and a man who goes out of his way to encourage happiness and satisfaction in others. It is more than just a little heartbreaking that this wonderful man is married to disaffected Maggie. Wilson gave Lance such an easy-going nature and this relentlessly likable disposition that he came across as sympathetic and pure of heart without being a doormat.

Director Craig Johnson reveled in the indie essence of his film, holding each scene until each depressing note had been drawn out until the skeleton twins had fully conveyed how messed up their lives are.

It’s a very bare film probably because it’s about stripping Maggie and Milo down to their bare essences to get to the roots of their dissatisfaction. It is decent character writing because the roots to their depression are long, convoluted and twisting through all the experiences of their lives. However, the interesting roots aren’t revealed until much later in the film, and the extraneous roots just establish their extreme selfishness. Any sympathy for Maggie and Milo was too little, too late.

The only scene that made me laugh was when Bill Hader determinedly made Kristen Wiig laugh. Comedians making other comedians laugh is always golden. But other than that, the laughs are hard to find and we’re left watching a film about selfish people living their depressing lives. I was significantly more moved by, interested in, and concerned with the supporting characters than I was with The Skeleton Twins.

Similar Titles:

A Long Way Down (2014) - A new direction can seem uneven, but the original wit, whimsy, humour and insight is intact.

Girl Most Likely (2012) - A girl has lost her way and comes back home with quirky comedy.