Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 33 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Language, some Sexuality and Drug Use
Directed by: Craig Johnson
Written by: Craig Johnson & Mark Heyman
Starring: Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Luke Wilson, Ty Burrell, Boyd Holbrook & Joanna Gleason
SKELETON TWINS is a dramedy that leans more on drama than comedy. This emotionally honest slice of depressing life tackles dark material with sometimes quirky dialogue. Driven by a sincere honesty that’s rarely captured this well on film, SKELETON TWINS might turn off anyone expecting a light-hearted romp or even a full-blown dark comedy. The film is much more of a family drama with dashes of witty banter. Though its been marketed as something totally different from what it actually is, SKELETON TWINS is a mostly fantastic indie drama for those seeking something out of the ordinary and challenging.
Milo and Maggie are twins who haven’t spoken to each other in 10 years. After two coincidences botch subsequent suicide attempts (Milo slicing his wrists, Maggie almost swallowing a handful of pills), Maggie is tasked with taking care of Milo after his hospital stay. The two bond over their lives not turning out quite the way they imagined and both deal with their own unique set of baggage in very different (not healthy) ways. There’s not a full-on story per se, but rather a severely dysfunctional sibling relationship being repaired in odd circumstances. Interactions between Milo, Maggie, Lance (Maggie’s naïve nice-guy husband) and Rich (a mysterious figure from Milo’s past) make up the structure of the movie. As a result, the story plays through a natural series of encounters that take their toll (both negative and positive) on the twins.
Besides a very well-written script, the driving force of SKELETON TWINS lies within the performances of the twin characters themselves. Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader (both known for raunchy comedies) take far more somber and melancholy turns as emotionally damaged Milo and Maggie. Fantastic performances are where the actor or actress inhabit their character. After a while, you don’t see that performer, you see that character. This is exactly what happens watching Wiig and Hader interact with each other. Their strained sibling relationship is entirely believable. Though he may be slightly underused, Luke Wilson is unusually great as Maggie’s innocent and lovable husband, Lance. Ty Burrell plays the film’s wild card character as Rich, who is a complete mystery until puzzle pieces reveal the complex (and uncomfortable) connection he had/has with Milo.
SKELETON TWINS a sad real-world aspect in a believable manner that I haven’t seen executed this well on film for a long time. Though Milo and Maggie make their share of bad decisions, they can admit to their faults. The characters might not gain your sympathy during certain actions and revelations, but they’re so believable that you can understand why they might feel the need to confront each other or dig a bigger hole for themselves within their problems. There is a steady handful of laughs to be had, but they aren’t necessarily at the expense of the misguided characters. These funny moments are derived from enjoying the little things in life to make circumstances seem less harsh.
Though its overall depressing overtones might turn those wanting an outright comedy (or even plain dark comedy) away, SKELETON TWINS feels remarkably honest and bittersweet. The performances from Hader and Wiig need to be seen to be believed as they come off as completely different people and show serious action chops they haven’t received many opportunities to flex. The only flaw comes in a small stretch of film that does feel like its dragging its feet, but everything else is so fantastic that it overshadows that minor problem. SKELETON TWINS is a wonderful film that feels completely natural in everything it does and comes highly recommended!