Movie Review: The Skeleton Twins


A pair of suicidal twins reunite after ten years and work through their issues.


Craig Johnson, 2014

When Milo (Bill Hader) attempts suicide, his sister Maggie (Kristen Wiig) is called to collect him from the other side of the country. She brings him home from LA to New York to stay with her and her husband Lance (Luke Wilson). An outgoing, friendly outdoorsman, Lance tells the sardonic Milo about the couple’s attempts to have a baby. Though her life seems stable on the surface, Milo’s arrival unearths some of the skeletons in Maggie’s closet, as the two of them attempt to rebuild their damaged relationship. Meanwhile, Milo decides to repeatedly visit Rich (Ty Burrell), with whom he has his own shady past.


You can tell we’re deep because of our knitted clothes and disdainful expressions.

This is a departure from the sort of thing you’d usually see Saturday Night Live alums Wiig and Hader in. While it has its comic moments, it is a serious drama about the nature of family and depression in which Kristen Wiig doesn’t get to make many facial expressions. The spotlight really belongs to Bill Hader, despite them being co-leads. He fares better, turning in a really nuanced and powerful performance (though he does refer to himself as “your gay [x]” more often than I would consider normal). Honestly, it’s one of the best performances I’ve seen this year. He shows serious range in a gift of a role, with Milo going from the lowest lows to a magnetic, funny charmer. They work well together, too – the stand-out, brilliant “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” lip-sync scene and their terrific Halloween together are prime examples of their sibling chemistry. Their quirks belie the underlying darkness that harks back to the suicide of their own father when they were young, which makes them sympathetic screw-ups who understand one another a little too well. The supporting players, all comedians, are fine. Luke Wilson’s Lance is almost absurdly positive and supportive in contrast to the morbid, depressed twins, and Ty Burrell is VERY restrained in his disturbing role. As Maggie’s scuba instructor, Boyd Holbrook tries to do an Australian accent, which, as any Australian knows, is always a major misstep in any movie. Seriously. Stop trying to sound like us. You don’t sound like us. It’s painful and distracting.

The aforementioned good scenes really stand out, because chunks of this movie are just…bland. It never really escapes its indie trappings – shots of New York in the fall with subdued music playing in the background, excessive use of knits, long shots of expressionless faces. I’d say there’s less than an hour of material in this film, the rest padded out by unnecessary shots in hazy suffused light. Some scenes manage to express the depression that the protagonists are going through, but others just seem to exist to show you how pretty New York is and how cool bookstores are. The movie does improve as it goes along, when you become invested in the characters and their relationships and the awkwardness fades. There’s something about comedians trying to prove their chops in here, too – there’s also a number of notable names in the credits who didn’t get face time. I can’t say I ever felt as emotionally invested as I should have, given the situation that the characters are in (except for one scene involving goldfish, where I felt bad for the goldfish), but your mileage may vary here. The movie is a fine, solid indie, but for me it only occasionally rose to its full potential.

The Skeleton Twins on IMDb


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