The Skeleton Twins Movie Review
Directed by Craig Johnson
Written by Craig Johnson and Mark Heyman
Release Date: 11 September 2014
Running Time: 93 minutes
Editor’s Rating: 3 out of 4 whippet sessions in a dentist's office
I was hipped to this movie from a clip I saw of comedy greats Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig doing a scene together that was decidedly not on Saturday Night Live. It was kinda dark and serious, but they couldn’t help bring a little comedy into whatever it was. Somehow I found out it was a movie. Fast forward to a couple days ago, and I find out it’s available to watch for free on Amazon Prime Instant Video!
I sat back and told myself “Self, you got a job to do.”
So here I go.
Using an emotion everyone in this film is very familiar with, I’m going to open this up with a little disappointment. The Skeleton Twins is not about two walking, talking skeletons that are twins. Sorry. I was bummed, too. It’s actually about Milo and Maggie Dean (Hader and Wiig), two twins who haven’t spoken to one another for over a decade, reunited when Milo attempts suicide over a bad breakup.
Please remember, I did use the term “darkly comedic” to describe this movie in the description.
Milo ends up moving in with Maggie and her husband, a big dumb animal named Lance, played by Luke Wilson. From there, more and more of the twisted, sordid Dean family history comes to light as Milo and Maggie struggle with themselves, their relationship with each other and with others, as the dysfunction that’s followed through the past wreaks havoc on their present.
I think a lot of people who didn’t care for this film probably did so calling it melodramatic. And while I can definitely say there are some moments of that, I can also say a lot of those moments are relatable. I can continue to go and say that Hader, Wiig, and even Wilson handle them with believable, palpable emotions, not something hammy like you’d expect as a punchline from Calculon in a Futurama episode or a serious moment in a Tyler Perry movie.
They’re just people, doing what they can, and that’s where the main strength of this movie lies. The film puts no pretense on its characters, focusing drab costuming, simple dialogue, and washed-out lighting among other things to portray the sense that not everything is peachy keen with the Deans. They just happen to get high on nitrous oxide in a dentist’s office or bone their scuba instructor. The real question is, why is a dental hygienist the last person in a dentist’s office in the first place, and why was she alone?
For all of its seriousness, the thing that takes this past “soap opera” and into “good film” territory is the way it switches from drama to comedy effortlessly, weaving in and out of it from scene to scene. It adds a sense of irreverence to the proceedings, reminding the audience that even though serious stuff is going down, the best way we get through that experience is by laughing about it.
Hader and Wiig’s actual friendship with each other shines through in a very genuine, heartwarming way. Milo and Maggie feel like two pieces of the same person, and their need for each other is always center stage, even if they won’t admit it to themselves at the time. It’s a real, beautiful relationship they cultivate, and one that immediately invests the audience. And it alone is worth the price of admission. Then when you discover that a lot of the scenes in the film were improvised, you realize everything else you experienced was gravy, because that was some darn fine improv.
So yeah, while The Skeleton Twins may not be a giant yuk-fest, it certainly gives two very gifted actors time to shine, and if you leave the kids out of it, you’ll have a fine time yourself.
**I watched this via a streaming service I paid for. I was not compensated for this review.**
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