The Skeleton Twins

I know it’s only October, but I can safely say this is one of my favorite movies of 2014.

Usually I would include a trailer here so you could get a taste of the film, but I honestly cannot stand the trailer for The Skeleton Twins because I think it gives away some key comedic moments. It’s a trailer that is trying to pitch this film to you as a moody romp with Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, but The Skeleton Twins is much more than that.

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On the same day that Maggie (Kristen Wiig) decides to end her life with a fistful of pills, she gets a call from a LA hospital saying that her twin brother, Milo (Bill Hader), had been found in a bathtub with his wrists slashed. But he’s OK. Ah, the connective powers of twins.

Maggie and Milo haven’t spoken to one another in ten years but in an effort to reconnect with her brother Maggie invites Milo to live with her and her husband Lance (Luke Wilson) in upstate New York. Returning home shakes both of the twins up in different ways. Milo faces his first love, Rich (Ty Burrell), and tries to find his place where he’s never felt accepted. Maggie then has to stare down the facade of domestic bliss and figure out what she really wants from life. Together, the twins take a stab at repairing their relationship and themselves, but ten years is a long rift to mend.

The Skeleton Twins is a darkly funny drama that will tickle your funny bone one minute and then ask you to take it seriously in the next. But it works.

The balance between humor and seriousness is finely honed by writers Mark Heyman and Craig Johnson.

For example, the lip-sync scene is one of the best scenes in modern cinema. The balance and humor and subtext are all there. It’s a funny scene, yes, but what you read into it is what makes the sequence amazing.

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At a Sundance Q&A panel, director Craig Johnson, said that sometimes the hardest part of making this film was in reeling in Wiig and Hader’s natural instinct towards comedy. Johnson said that their comedy would feed off one another’s making a scene larger than life, but that wasn’t always the goal for The Skeleton Twins. Johnson skillfully directs his stars so that the comedy and hard-hitting drama ebb and flow in a way that feels true to life.

Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig are perfect in this film. Both of them are giving what may be the best performances of their careers to date.

After years of playing a caricature of a gay man on SNL (don’t get me wrong I love Stefan), Hader steps up to portray a genuine and complex reflection of a gay male. Hader’s Milo is a heartbreaking character that charms you in heavy doses as well as small measures. Wiig is Hader’s ideal counterpoint; she plays Maggie with the quiet desperation of the bored and disengaged.

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The Skeleton Twins is also a film that deals with the lies we tell one another (and ourselves) in order to get by. A great deal of the poignancy of this film comes from the awareness of these lies from the characters as well as the audience.

The whole film is populated by blatantly imperfect people who you quickly come to love. Luke Wilson utterly disappears in his performance, and I mean that in the best way possible. Wilson makes Lance look like a regular guy they pulled off the street and gave lines to: his manipulation of awkward silence is Wilson’s greatest asset in this film. And Ty Burrell manages to be endearing in his role as Milo’s closeted former lover/ high school teacher.

If you live in an area that plays independent films regularly, try to track down The Skeleton Twins before it leaves theaters. There’s a tonal quality to the film both in visuals and content that makes it ideal for fall.

I give The Skeleton Twins 5 movie bubbles.

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