Movie Review: Hader and Wiig Go From Serious to Silly in ‘The Skeleton Twins’

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Originally published September 26 – The Skeleton Twins, from director and co-writer Craig Johnson, is a tame, inoffensive drama-comedy that visually resembles a Paxil commercial. Largely devoid of plot, the film, which opens this weekend at The Charles, is instead a character study of troubled siblings, played by Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig. The characters act crazy in a way that upper-middle class people can relate to, that is, lots of white whine, but nothing too grave.

Regardless, the film succeeds on the strength of its great cast, especially Bill Hader who at times visibly rings with emotion while being consistently hilarious. He makes a serious case for himself as a go-to man for these kinds of roles, which call for the actor to navigate between the . The same goes for Kristin Wiig, who doesn’t get to be as funny as her talent deserves but successfully portrays the deep level of confusion in her character. While the stars transition well between comedy and drama, the same can’t be said for the film itself. It’s only the comedy here that keeps things afloat. The capital-S-Serious stuff is dealt with in a way so trite and predictable, with a three-act screenplay so stock, that it trivializes the very issues the movie is trying to examine.

Hader plays Milo, a wisecracking gay man depressed that his life never turned out the way he’d hoped. After a suicide attempt, he goes to live with his estranged sister Maggie (Wiig) in their upstate New York hometown. It turns out that her problems are no less complicated than his. Without giving anything away, they both suffer with issues of self-acceptance, sexual confusion and suburban malaise, which they express in different ways. Both characters are suicidal, an element that should have been left out of the movie considering that neither their suicidal tendencies and nor their mental health issues are ever sincerely examined. It serves more as a contrivance that exists only to add some “Will they do it?” drama. The movie jumbles together scenes and issues, one after another without ever creating that necessary level of cohesion that a movie requires to have a point.

Sounds like a laugh riot, right? Well actually it is pretty damn funny at times. Extended bits where Wiig and Hader do laughing gas together, or when they perform a hilarious rendition of Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,” are the best moments of the movie. In supporting roles, Luke Wilson is amusingly goofy as Wiig’s bland husband, and Ty Burrell does good dramatic work as Hader’s ex.

The actors here, especially Hader, are talented and likable and can make a scene on their charisma alone. Because of this, The Skeleton Twins is digestible, charming, and not a waste of time when all is said and done. It ultimately fails in its more serious ambitions, but if you’re willing to forgive that and enjoy a talented cast playing entertaining characters, then you will enjoy this movie.

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