The Skeleton Twins Director: Craig Johnson
Screenwriter: Craig Johnson, Mark Heyman
Cast: Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Luke Wilson, Ty Burrell Roadside Attractions
Rated R | 93 Minutes
Release Date: September 26, 2014
“God, what the hell happened to us?”
Written and directed by Craig Johnson (True Adolescents), The Skeleton Twins stars Saturday Night Live alums Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader as Maggie and Milo, estranged twins who reunite after a set of near-tragedies bring them together.
As children, Maggie and Milo Dean were inseparable. As teenagers, a family tragedy sent them down different paths, leading to a decade of silence. Now in their thirties, they are brought together when Milo, a struggling actor in Los Angeles, tries to take his own life. After recovering in the hospital, he reluctantly accepts his sister’s offer to stay with her in upstate New York.
Maggie is barely holding it together, though. Despite her loving husband Lance (Luke Wilson), she’s just as damaged and broken as her melancholic sibling, working through her depression by cheating on Lance with her hunky scuba diving instructor (Boyd Holbrook).
The Skeleton Twins is a powerful, endearing film about the strange, beautiful, and volatile relationships we find ourselves in. It’s entirely authentic in its messiness and unpredictability – a bittersweet film that is both funny and sad, often within the same scene.
Johnson recognizes that contradictions are key in humanizing characters and creating a world that is recognizable to the audience. It’s something filmmaker Gillian Robespierre was also able to inject in her film Obvious Child; tackling a sensitive, controversial subject with maturity, honesty, and humor.
There’s a real sense of anguish and pain here, which leads to a few tense, distressing moments as you inhabit the psyches of two characters who are dangerously close to edge. This is all accomplished thanks to the thoughtful, touching performances by Wiig and Hader.
Their shared history as Saturday Night Live cast members informs so much of the chemistry displayed on screen here. Maggie and Milo are sardonic and self-obsessed, but they’re also very, very funny. The moment we are about to judge them, they disarm us with acts of generosity and humor that remind us of the contradictions that are within all of us.
I’m a big, big fan of this film and I can’t wait to see more from Johnson – as well as the future dramatic endeavors of Wiig and Hader, who both show an impressive amount of range here. The Skeleton Twins doesn’t shy away from the darkness – it embraces it. Johnson’s film shows us all the ways in which we struggle against life, and the importance of humor in dealing with the dreariness of our own existence.