September 25, 2014

Review: 'The Skeleton Twins' – Hader and Wiig Powers Activate!

"To whom it may concern, see ya later."
Bill Hader Kristen Wiig | The Skeleton Twins

Saturday Night Live veterans and comedians Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig are absolutely sublime playing estrange twin siblings in The Skeleton Twins. Their comedic chemistry is unsurprising and hilariously fluid just as their dark, dramatic undertones about suicide and depression are affecting. Despite being such dramatically heavy film about cheating death and self sabotage, it's hard not to delight in the film's out of nowhere highlight where Hader lip syncs and dances to Starship’s classic power ballad duet, "Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now", in order to force a smile out of Wiig's character.

Director/co-writer Craig Johnson and co-writer Mark Heyman craft a fairly winning film, juggling some very darkly twisted subject matter concerning the everyday struggles of life. By casting Hader and Wiig, Johnson highlights their unbelievable knack for naturalistic comedy, easing the tension and disturbing situations. Twins Milo and Maggie are separated, estranged, and reunited after ten years apart after Milo's failed suicide attempt while Maggie unknowingly contemplates the same thing.

It's interesting how the twins are portrayed partially as antagonists to each other with a special, sometimes destructive bond. They see each other for who they really are and not the facade the present to the rest of the world. They are the only ones who truly understand each other without judgment yet their troubled upbringing and family history of emotional unavailability haunts them as functioning adults. The twins try to run from their past by being new people, but both their personal crises come to a head when it's made clear they must address their issues before moving on.

An ultra earnest Luke Wilson, as an overly positive and sweet, bro version of Ned Flanders, playing Wiig's husband is a joy in contrast to the darkly funny duo. The magic in the movie is the interactions between characters where they are allowed to reveal each other's emotional honesty and feelings effortlessly. This occasionally gets bogged down in the second half with constant plot beats and arcs needing to get wrapped up or resolved as Milo's past relationship with a shady Ty Burrell and Maggie's indiscretions come to light. The actors elevate the material and get past some of the contrivances and plot clichés.

The Skeleton Twins is entirely anchored and succeeds on the charm and performances of its two leads. Hader and Wiig put on a clinic of switching back and forth between darkly comedic and dramatic performances. It's a raw, brutally honest film about the struggles of depression, suicide, and family dysfunction. Johnson's flair for artful framing and fluid editing add and build to the story and acting. It works in spite of the difficult material and convenient, sometimes mundane plotting. It's a sweet film about damaged people and the struggles of siblings apart and reunited.

More | YVArcade / AV Club / EW

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