“The Skeleton Twins” is an excellent exploration of the brother-sister dynamic, supported by great performances from its cast and a bittersweet mix of subtle humor and heartbreaking drama.
Siblings Milo (Bill Hader) and Maggie (Kristen Wiig) are brought back together after ten years of estrangement when they both contemplate suicide on the same day. Milo is the only one to actually attempt it and as a result they’re forced to reunite and take care of each other while reconciling their pasts. Milo is a struggling gay actor in L.A., and Maggie is a married, but unhappy, dental hygienist in New York. Their reunion is something delicate, always hinging on being more devastating than healing, but it’s the chemistry of Hader and Wiig that provides a solid foundation for the unbreakable bond that Milo and Maggie share.
For those expecting any remnant of outrageous SNL character Stefan in Hader’s performance or the usual goofiness from Wiig, think again. Hader makes Milo more than his sexual orientation, fleshing him out into a believable and complicated character, while Wiig uses her talent for self-deprecation to make Maggie a layered and sympathetic character despite her questionable decisions.
Their performances lend some serious weight to the movie, but the drama never feels contrived or sappy. Thanks to the wonderful chemistry of Hader and Wiig, everything flows naturally. Their compatibility comes across best when Milo and Maggie have small moments of joy or support — most notably a sequence involving a glittery ’80s power jam and a late night spent in an empty dentist’s office — and it’s even somewhere under the surface of every one of their arguments or disagreements. With warm familiarity working in their favor, Wiig and Hader carry the weight of the movie with charm and ease.
Luke Wilson also deserves a mention for his great performance as Maggie’s husband, Lance, who is basically an average guy. He’s happy, loveable and an all-around good person, best described as a “golden retriever” by one of the siblings. It’s really Lance who provides comic relief, and that’s impressive in a movie where the leads are Saturday Night Live alumni.
Issues with “The Skeleton Twins” are minor. The biggest one is that the running time was much too short — the ending was rushed and the audience is left wanting to spend more time with the characters. The film also struggled balancing humor and drama, but almost as soon as something felt off, it was corrected.
Overall, “The Skeleton Twins” succeeds in telling its story of a brother and a sister who are complicated people with messy lives. It’s through their bond that they find a way to start patching things up. With great performances, memorable scenes and equal amounts of laughter and sadness, it is a dark comedy that is worth a watch.