Former Saturday Night Live stars Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig co-star with Luke Wilson in The Skeleton Twins. The family drama is directed by Craig Johnson, who also co-writes with Mark Heyman. With spot-on direction, a solid script, and a fantastic cast, The Skeleton Twins enforces the traditional conceptions about the importance of family ties in an unconventional way.
As Maggie Dean (Wiig) holds a handful of pills, about to take her own life, she receives a phone call from a hospital. Her gay twin brother, Milo (Hader), has been admitted for an attempted suicide. Realizing the irony, Maggie immediately heads to the hospital to see her twin for the first time in ten years and asks him to come live with her and her husband in New York for a while.
Hader and Wiig are truly great as a sibling team and as individual characters in this film, both capturing the complexity and depth in their respective characters. Hader brings cynical humor to the table, highlighting how displaced Milo feels when in a room with Maggie and her overly-enthusiastic husband, Lance (Wilson). Although Maggie does many terrible things, like cheating on her husband with her scuba diving instructor (Boyd Holbrook), Wiig shows her guilt and emotional vulnerability in such a way that keeps the audience rooting for her. Hader and Wiig both successfully convey the character development and the growing level of comfort that Maggie and Milo feel with each other as the story progresses. The duo is undoubtedly a large part of The Skeleton Twins’ success. Luke Wilson is nothing special in the film; he plays the exact role you would expect, and his performance doesn’t stand out next to Hader and Wiig.
Craig Johnson had a very specific vision when writing for and directing this film. His own description for the theme of The Skeleton Twins is “dealing with dark shit with a sense of humor.” Johnson has certainly achieved this goal. Although the film sees Milo and Maggie through personal devastation, even at the darkest parts there is always a joke not far down the road. Another thing Johnson did right: he encouraged the actors to improvise. Given the backgrounds of his two leading actors, Johnson allows them to express their comedic reactions to the situations their characters are in.
The reason I’m not giving this film all ten stars is almost entirely due to the ending, which I obviously won’t spoil. All I’ll say is that it felt rather incomplete to me. I’m pretty sure this is Johnson’s intention; I just don’t agree with it. It’s not that I have a problem with loose ends, I simply feel that Johnson leaves the audience with too many of them.
The film is technically a drama, but it completely stands out from the rest of the cookie-cutter dramas in cinema. It’s certainly a different type of film than the ones we usually see Wiig, Hader, and Wilson in, but none of them appear to be out of their element. Although you won’t find yourself laughing your ass off, The Skeleton Twins is still an immensely powerful film that is worth being seen by all.