“The Skeleton Twins” Movie Review

     In only his second feature, writer/director Craig Johnson has effectively created a story that is both heartwarming and tragic at the same time with his family drama “The Skeleton Twins”.  Taking Saturday Night Live alums Kristin Wiig and Bill Hader away from their comic roots and thrusting them into a storyline that challenges their ability to extend their range into the dramatic, Johnson’s film hits the right tone throughout and is a satisfying character study from beginning to end.  The film explores a theme common amongst many people who find themselves at a point in their life where regrets and past transgressions begin to come into play.  As twin brother and sister, Milo (Hader) and Maggie (Wiig) share a fond history of interaction with one another, but ten years has past since they last saw each other, as both have spent their time away searching for two things that everyone wants in their life, happiness and normalcy. 

     When we are first introduced to Milo, he’s listening to music in his apartment and writing a would be suicide note.  Minutes later, he attempts suicide, but is saved by a neighbor who had complained his music was too loud.  Coincidentally, Maggie is in a similar difficult place in her life as she is also preparing to attempt suicide, but is interrupted by a phone call from the hospital alerting her of what has happened with her brother.  Perhaps this is just what she needs at this point.  A reason to live, as most of us thrive when we feel needed by someone and Milo has suddenly become that person in need for her.  Though their initial encounter in the hospital doesn’t indicate a rekindled relationship between the two, Maggie suggests Milo come stay with her and her husband in New York.

     When a significant amount of time has elapsed, people are bound to move in a different direction and this is immediately noticed by Milo when he arrives at Maggie’s house and meets her new husband, Lance (Luke Wilson).  We don’t have the benefit of knowing and understanding what kind of person Maggie was when she was younger, but Milo’s initial observations tell us she has become someone else, perhaps at the behest of Lance.  Milo comments about the Martha Stewart like decor and often wonders aloud how she would end up with someone like Lance who seems like a the very straight arrow type.  Through several subtle hints, it is not as if Maggie disagrees even though she is constantly referring to him as “great”.  Never during the film does she seem to be truly invested in her relationship with Lance and often finds herself annoyed by some of his everyday habits.  One that hit home for me in particular was her questioning of his choice of footwear, a yellow and black pair of Vibram Five Fingers toe shoes.  She makes it obvious that she doesn’t approve.

     Throughout all of the drama, Johnson does take advantage of both Hader and Wiig’s comedic abilities, including an all out lip sync and performance in the living room of Starship’s “Nothings Gonna Stop Us Now”.  Scenes like this allow the audience to see Hader and Wiig perform in a way their more accustomed, but the majority of this story covers a number of serious issues.  Milo is gay and has struggled with his relationships for years after an incident in high school in which he was seduced by a teacher.  He’s also unhappy with his life, frequently telling those who ask of his high end exploits in Los Angeles as an actor.  In actuality, he works as a bartender and has come to the realization he is going nowhere fast.  Maggie is in a similar yet different situation.  Lance wants kids, but she isn’t sure if she has what it takes to be a mother.  We are let in early on the fact she didn’t have a very good role model in that department.  Both Maggie and Milo seem to suffer from tremendous self doubt.

     The performances by Hader and Wiig are top notch and carry the film nicely. Their relationship on screen effectively illustrates their closeness as kids growing up and the struggles they have endured with both their mother and father.  There are several moments where you can really feel their emotions as each suffers from the intense pain of depression and a constant feeling of hopelessness.  Each copes in different ways as Milo looks to his tumultuous past for answers and Maggie chooses to conceal her indiscretions from an overly trusting and vulnerable Lance.  Ultimately, this is the story of a brother and sister who have come to realize they are the only two people in the world who can truly understand each other, a conclusion the audience will come to as well.  GRADE: B