Directed by: Craig Johnson
There’s been a trend in the last decade or so for comedy actors, some of whom have appeared in a big ratings drawing US sitcom or the hugely popular SNL, to try their hand at acting in a serious indie drama with an undercurrent of dark comedy. They usually play characters who are misfits, often socially dysfunctional, depressed, on anti-depressants and full of self-loathing. I suppose the starting point for this was when Zach Braff discarded his scrubs and starred in ‘Garden State’.
‘The Skeleton Twins’ is a story of two siblings who are reunited under difficult circumstances. When her brother Milo (Bill Hader) tries to take his own life, Maggie (Kristen Wiig) arrives at his bedside. The twins, who were inseparable during their childhood, then struggle to reconnect when Milo moves in with Maggie and her everyman husband Lance.
Both Milo and Maggie begin to slowly confront their own internal dilemmas that are deeply rooted in the past. Maggie wonders about whether she should have a baby, and Milo tries to reach out to his older lover played by ‘Modern Family’s’ Ty Burrell. By confronting these dilemmas both twins find that the only solidity in their lives is the relationship they have with each other.
The film has a few missteps; the short scene with their estranged Mother doesn’t quite work, offering barely a glimpse into the twin’s childhood. Then there’s a horribly syrupy lip-synching scene where Milo tries to cheer up Maggie by miming along to Starship’s ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’, a song originally made famous when included in the soundtrack to ‘Mannequin’. Something about that seem jars with me, it seems so forced, so shoehorned in.
I suppose I was also on the fence about how the film dealt with Mental Illness, the director kinda skirts around the pain of suicidal feelings, though at the same time it must be said that the film doesn’t glamorize the suicide attempts. Milo quietly closes his eyes as his bath water turns red, and Maggie’s melodramatic drowning seems to fit that of a frustrated housebound wife whose life lacks excitement. There’s enough caution and care here that goes beyond post-mumblecore tropes related to Mental Illness.
Any joy in the film is captured when the siblings joke around with each other. When Milo and Maggie lark about in the dentist, fooling with braces and nitrous oxide, the scene, likely improvised by the two fine comedy performers, has a lovely natural quality to it. The fabulous campy Halloween party is also rather sweet, although that scene does turn rather sour as dark revelations come from conversations about the past.
‘The Skeleton Twins’ is a watchable drama, ideal for a dreary winter afternoon.