Sometimes you just have a gut feeling/hunch that a movie is going to be better than you expected, or at least has the potential to be. In the case of The Skeleton Twins, I went in expecting a quality film after the reviews out of Sundance and got a wonderful one instead. Led by what I feel are career best turns from Bill Hader (also excellent in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby this week as well) and Kristen Wiig, this dramedy is damn near brilliant at times, a flick that you just want to hug. Hader shows off dramatic chops you didn’t even realize he had while Wiig completes her transformation from a comedian to someone capable of seamlessly slipping back and forth between comedy and drama. Co-written and directed by Craig Johnson, pretty much every moment here works in a big way. Aside from one or two small contrivances in the plot, there’s very little not to love in this film, particularly the brother/sister interactions of Hader and Wiig. Featuring my absolute favorite scene so far this year (set to the Starship song “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now”), The Skeleton Twins is a bit of a miracle of a movie. Few flicks over the past nine months have worked on as many levels as this one has. Without question, The Skeleton Twins is a success and one of the ten best things I’ve seen over the course of 2014. I’m not sure if it can become an awards contender, but that’s almost besides the point with this one. It’s a must see folks.
We’re introduced to siblings Milo (Hader) and Maggie (Wiig) as both are contemplating suicide. While Milo attempts and fails to take his own life, Maggie’s potentially more successful attempt is foiled before it can even begin when the phone rings and she’s informed of Milo’s “accident”. Though they haven’t spoken in about a decade, Maggie travels out west to California in order to see Milo in the hospital and bring him back home with her to upstate New York. Once there, they begin to bond again while also learning about the struggles that each are going through. Milo is distraught over the end of a relationship and a failed acting career, while Maggie is unhappy in her marriage to nice guy Lance (Luke Wilson) and periodically unfaithful while also avoiding the pregnancy that Lance wants them to have. Having been incredibly close as children, especially after the death of their father, being in close proximity to one another allows them to find a measure of happiness, though their demons are hardly cured. Milo seeks out the older teacher (Ty Burrell) he had an inappropriate relationship with as a teenager, while Maggie continues to be adulterous and secretly taking birth control to avoid Luke impregnating her. At a certain point, they both begin taking stands about each other’s lives and their rekindled bond will be put to the test. If this sounds serious, there are certainly serious moments, particularly a brutal argument during the third act, but don’t get me wrong…this is also hilarious plenty of the time.
The duo of Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig are absolutely phenomenal. I’ve seen Wiig be excellent on more tun one occasion, though never as good as she is here (give or take her straight comedic role in Bridesmaids), while this is Hader’s first real-time to shine in a lead role. Hader’s role could easily have become cliched, but he adds layer upon layer onto the character. It’s a performance I know Oscar won’t jive to, but I hope at least the Golden Globes recognize. As for Wiig, this is her most complete performance, anchored in her comedy past but also by far her saddest role to date. They’re both top-notch, especially when they’re sharing the screen. Their comedic interactions are incredibly funny (particularly some quick zingers back and forth) or just make you smile (the previously mentioned music sequence), but when things get dramatic they’re just as good. That argument I mentioned…wow. They say a few things that will shock you, and both actors sell it perfectly. Both Ty Burrell and Luke Wilson are very solid in supporting roles, though when they’re involved with the siblings, you wish it could just be Milo and Maggie. Also in the cast are Joanna Gleason, Boyd Holbrook, and Kathleen Rose Perkins, to name a few, but this is all about Hader and Wiig.
Craig Johnson and his co-writer Mark Heyman do follow a bit more of a formula here than is ideal, but you really won’t care much because of how effective they make the formula. That’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of inspired moments, because there are, so it’s hardly your garden variety dramedy. I could go on and on about the sequence set to Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now, but it’s a scene that really needs to be seen to be fully appreciated. It’s my favorite moment of any film this year, and I know I won’t be alone in feeling that way. Johnson and Heyman have a script here that deserves Best Original Screenplay consideration, almost simply for how well they’ve created a quartet of characters (Burrell and Wilson’s supporting players don’t behave as these sorts of characters would in other films), though the balance of both comedic and dramatic emotion is tremendously done as well. Johnson’s direction is quietly effective, but it’s the script and the acting that really shines here.
The Skeleton Twins has some dark moments and some riotously funny moments, but it’s always a moving film. The work by all involved is excellent, notably from Hader and Wiig, who both are nomination worthy. I loved this movie and recommend it highly. I really can’t wait for you all to get a chance to see it. The Skeleton Twins is a flick that just works…man does it ever work. It’s terrific and you all should 100% seek it out. I have a feeling this one might wind up on my year-end Top Ten list.
–Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!