Film Review from Award Winning Film Maker and MPI Alumnus Robert Butler: "The Skeleton Twins"

For decades we have seen comedians make a transition into film. Most notably SNL has a strong history of shaping film careers, if you just take a look at the careers of Eddie Murphy, Billy Crystal, Bill Murray, Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Mike Myers, Tina Fey, and Will Ferrel to name a few, all comedians that went onto successful film careers. We’ve seen other comedians go from comedy to drama,  Robin Williams did it in “The Fisher King” and “Dead Poets Society”, and   Jim Carrey did it beautifully in “The Truman Show” to name a few.  Comedy is often overlooked as something low-brow and second-rate, however comedy is much harder than drama. When you mix comedy with drama, it’s even more difficult to accomplish.

Writer-Director  Craig Johnson pulls it off effectively in his second feature film titled “The Skeletons Twins” and the film is just about terrific on every level. It stars SNL veterans Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, who also appeared together in the wonderful “Adventureland” where they played a married couple; here they play estranged twin siblings.

The film opens up with Maggie (Wiig), where she contemplates taking a handful of pills in her bathroom. She’s interrupted with a phone call from the hospital informing her of a tragedy. Her gay twin brother Milo (Hader), whom she has not seen in ten years, also attempted suicide and is recovering in the hospital.

And Milo's failed suicide is only his latest failure - he's a struggling unemployed actor, he's just been dumped, and since his future in L.A. looks uncertain, he agrees to move back to upstate New York and stay with Maggie and her husband, Lance (Luke Wilson). Who’s a well-meaning but oblivious husband who doesn’t quite understand Maggie’s plight. Lance is excited to try to have a baby with Maggy, but she is having doubts, and even cheats around on him with her Australian scuba instructor.

The reunion between Maggy and Milo starts off bumpy, but gravitates to warm. Milo is an openly gay man, but must resort back into his closeted repression in the town he grew up in. The film quickly moves away from comedy and moves toward drama, and Hader and Wiig are both amusing and heartbreaking in their roles.

Together Hader and Wiig have a lot of wonderful exchanges and amusing scenes, in which they bond once again in Maggie’s dentist office where she works as an assistant. They inhale nitrous oxide and recollect past memories. They also do a lip-sync performance together to the 1980’s pop song “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” by Starship.

They also have a great evening dressing up for a community Halloween party. However they end up unleashing their true feelings towards each other as they tear down each other’s vulnerabilities and flaws. Milo can’t seem to go back to a former lover, a closeted bi-sexual book store owner, Rich (Ty Burrell, a former teacher who seduced Milo back when he was a teen in high school. Milo still has strong feelings for him that haven’t slipped away.

All around the film is nicely performed, well-scripted, carefully directed, and flows very well. The biggest selling point to the film is the performances by Hader and Wig, both actors truly open up and we see a side of them outside their comfort zone. Both performances are hilarious, moving, accomplished, and fearless.

Rating ***1/2 out of ****

Next week : Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

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