At first glance, The Skeleton Twins seems perfect for comedy lovers – headlined by Saturday Night Live legends Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, it would be a fair assumption. But, although it does have its fair share of feel-good moments, The Skeleton Twins is one dark movie. From its devastating opening scene, Craig Johnson’s film showcases the range of Wiig and Hader’s talents, ably blending drama and comedy into an unexpected, beautiful mix.
The narrative follows estranged twins Milo (Hader) and Maggie (Wiig) as they are brought together by their own disintegration. Milo’s story is particularly engaging from the start, as he navigates a return to his suburban hometown and the pain he left behind there. Both Wiig and Hader beautifully portray these complex characters, sharing an inclination for self-destruction as they try to move past trauma and tragedy in order to reconnect after a decade apart.
Although this may sound like the kind of plot you’ve heard countless times, the characters are depicted with such complexity and sincerity that it feels refreshing. Milo and Maggie are painfully realistic portraits of mental illness that feel fundamentally human. Of course, Hader and Wiig’s chemistry, evident since their SNL days, is a huge part of what makes these characters so engaging. Put together two actors that have worked so well together for as long as they have and the result is often spectacular.
What also makes The Skeleton Twins work is its ability to surprise. While we gain gradual insight into the tragic lives of the main characters, we are also blessed with levity. An iconic lip-sync scene stands out as a high point of the film. As Milo and Maggie dance around to Starship’s ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’, you can’t help but smile. Though it might seem like a cliché musical choice from director Johnson, the lyrics and upbeat ’80s sound beautifully express a complicated reconciliation. The song will never sound the same after hearing it in The Skeleton Twins, for the better.
The Skeleton Twins takes issues such as family breakdown, grief and suicide, and effortlessly incorporates them with a keen sense of humour. Taking on such a challenge is never easy, but Johnson subverts our expectations of both comedy and drama to create a story which is, at its core, real. It should come as no surprise that the film was met with critical acclaim when it premiered at Sundance back in 2014, where Johnson shared the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award with co-writer Mark Heyman.
Painfully charming and surprisingly comedic, The Skeleton Twins is criminally underrated, A heartbreaking and fundamentally necessary film, it will leave you forever in awe of Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig’s abilities.
Watch the trailer below: