It has long been known that comic actors can make great dramatic actors, and in The Skeleton Twins it is the turn of Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig. They prove more than equal to the task, but what a shame the rest of the film is such a huge disappointment.
The film opens with struggling actor Milo (Hader) attempting and failing to commit suicide in his bath. His sister Maggie (Wiig) is contacted and he goes to stay with her and her husband Lance (Luke Wilson) during his convalescence. While staying there he reconnects with a teacher (Ty Burrell) who had a relationship with him as a 15-year-old and tries to understand why he’s so desperately unhappy. Maggie meanwhile struggles to come to terms with her marriage to the cheery Lance, which leads her to cheat on him with her scuba instructor Billy (Boyd Holbrook).
The Skeleton Twins is as formulaic an indy-spirited drama as you will find. Each scene is shot in a dulled-colour version of real life and every scene lingers for a beat too long. Probably because the director Craig Johnson thinks it’s artistic. It isn’t. If blockbusters are to be criticised for following the same big themes, then low-budget indy dramedies should be held to the same standard.
It follows a couple of unlikable anti-social misfits throughout a portion of their adult lives where they discuss why they’re so messed up. It is of course everyone else’s fault. The only seemingly nice character is the dim, but encouraging Lance who of course gets screwed over and
Hader and Wiig are great, proving more than capable of dealing with the cut and thrust of drama and hopefully this will lead to bigger and better things in the future. But the real standout is Luke Wilson, whose boundless enthusiasm and surrogate parental performance acts as the films only enjoyable part.
There’s nothing new or of memorable note in The Skeleton Twins that sets it apart from its peers. If anything it follows exactly the same path. There’s suicide, abuse, misery and depression. The entitled, naval-gazing leads aren’t particularly nice people, but they insist upon forcing their opinions and flawed logic upon one another in an unbearable build that provides no real payoff. The big dramatic ending leads us to think that nothing has been learnt and they are in fact, not better off than they were.
With this in mind, you have to ask what the point of it is? Just a chance for the writer-director Johnson to indulge in his own personal sadness perhaps.