The Skeleton Twins (Craig Johnson, 2014)
The somewhat spooky title may be misleading – if you’re conjuring up images of the buried remains of children then you’re a bit off. Instead, The Skeleton Twins is about estranged adult twins, Maggie (Kristen Wiig) and Milo (Bill Hader) who reunite after ten years apart. Milo is a struggling actor who has recently experienced a tough break-up. Maggie is a dental hygienist married to an absolute sweetie pie (Luke Wilson) who wants kids, but she doesn’t quite share his enthusiasm. Both twins are in their late thirties, and are grappling with life turning out differently to how they had expected.
The Skeleton Twins was darker than I’d anticipated, although I probably should have picked up on a clue in the trailer. The twins and their deceased father all share mental health issues, and if films that deal with this type of content depress you, then it may not be the best choice for a relaxing movie night. There’s also a revelation about one character’s past that is quite dark, but the film pars back the shock value in this respect by giving it some distance. To counter the drama, there are many comedic moments, which perhaps isn’t too surprising considering the cast involved. The lip-synching scene was the highlight for me – who doesn’t love a good lip-sync?
Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, who have previously co-starred in long-running sketch comedy/variety show Saturday Night Live, have great chemistry here. Having only ever seen Bill Hader in comedic roles, I was extremely impressed with his portrayal of Milo. Dude’s got versatility! Kristen Wiig has been taking on more and more dramatic roles of late, and she also nails it. At the same time they inject their roles with a good dose of humour which creates a perfect balance of light and dark. If you don’t smile at the lip-synching scene, there’s something wrong with you. Ty Burrell, who makes me absolutely piss myself as Phil in Modern Family, pops up, and you expect the jokes to come thick and fast. But he is all serious here, which feels weird, because since when is he not belly-achingly hilarious? To his credit, he was still very convincing. Luke Wilson rounds out the primary cast as Maggie’s husband Lance, and he’s such a GREAT. GUY. I dare you to not fall in love with him. Unfortunately, Boyd Holbrook as Billy the scuba instructor absolutely mangled the Australian accent. JUST CAST AN AUSSIE IF YOU WANT THE CHARACTER TO BE AUSTRALIAN! Or get someone who can do the accent. PLEASE. I can’t even explain how bad it was.
Though we only hear about the twins’ deceased father, and see their mother Judy (Joanna Gleeson) only briefly, the dysfunctional family is a prominent theme. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and history tends to repeat itself. Life hasn’t turned out as Maggie and Milo expected, and the possibilities for positive change go unseen. Their past keeps them trapped in the present, unable to see a way forward. In that sense, The Skeleton Twins is rather depressing, and it has no fairy-tale ending either. Thank god for that, because that would be a crock. These two definitely needed therapy. The closest they get to this is confiding in each other, and that is probably more entertaining to watch. It might not make your spirits soar, but The Skeleton Twins is genuine and heartfelt, without piling on the mush.