‘The Skeleton Twins’, charming and affecting

Saturday Night Live veterans Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig are the leads in the film ‘The Skeleton Twins’, but be warned, this is not a comedy.

The film premiered last January at the Sundance film festival and was released in the U.S. on September 12. An independent film, it was directed by Craig Johnson, who co-wrote the screenplay and has only one other film credit to his name, ‘True Adolescents’, that came out in 2009. The ‘Twins’ screenplay was co-written with Mark Heyman, who was the screenwriter of recent notable films ‘The Wrestler’ and ‘Black Swan’. The emotional baggage and familial detachment that occurred in ‘The Wrestler’ are the main topics of ‘The Skeleton Twins’.

‘The Skeleton Twins’ is about two almost middle-aged siblings Milo (Hader), and Maggie (Wiig), who begin the film each attempting to commit suicide. Estranged, the siblings haven’t spoken to each other for a decade, but not for any explicit specific reason, a very realistic explanation for siblings who are damaged goods and simply grow apart.

Maggie, an upstate New York native who still lives in her hometown, goes to Los Angeles to visit Milo in the hospital after his suicide attempt. Maggie then invites Milo, a gay struggling actor, to stay with her and her husband Lance, a nice simpleton played to perfection by Luke Wilson, back in New York.

It is while Milo is staying with Maggie that we see them getting to know each other again, and that they eventually drive each other crazy. There are highs and lows in their time spent together, such as when Milo coerces Maggie into lip syncing Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now”, a hilarious and touching moment, surrounded by lots of grief and complications.

Maggie and Milo of course have reasons for their attempts at suicide. Milo is an unsuccessful actor who as a child thought he was going to hit it big, but as he says in the film, he “peaked in high school”. Milo spends his time in his hometown trying to rekindle a “romance” with an old high school teacher, which pointed out by Maggie, was quite a predatory situation when they were young. The old teacher is played by ‘Modern Family’’s Ty Burrell in a serious turn as someone is with complicated motives, who manipulates Milo for his personal gain.

Maggie is a dental hygienist who says she loves her husband of two years, but it seems there isn’t enough passion in the relationship because she is seen having a short affair with her scuba instructor, and she tells her brother that she has slept with a few other men before that. Lance thinks that they are both eager to have a baby, but Maggie secretly takes birth control pills, for fear that she wouldn’t be a good mother.

A cause of Milo and Maggie’s emotional turmoil would be their childhood. Their father, who is vaguely shown in flashbacks, committed suicide when they were preteens, and their absentee mother appears in one scene, she is invited by Milo for dinner. It appears at first like she came all the way from her new family in Arizona to see Maggie and Milo, but is then revealed to only have been in the area because of a work convention.

As the movie wears on, truths are revealed and it is almost unclear whether there will be happiness for Milo and Maggie. Wiig and Hader have perfect chemistry as the witty and heartbreaking siblings, natural from their years together on SNL. The performances and the screenplay are quite relatable for myself, and there is a brutal honesty that is hardly seen in the cinema today. Though the set design and the upper New York setting was too picturesque as if Martha Stewart threw up all over the movie. It begs the question, is it okay to experience soul crushing depression as long as you have a not-affordable house with throw pillows galore?

Final Verdict: 8/10

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