Take a Drink: whenever someone is submerged in water.
Take a Drink: at every indie trope.
Take a Drink: every time suicide is mentioned.
Do a Shot: whenever someone attempts suicide.
Take a Drink: whenever an aquarium is smashed.
Take a Drink: at every fart sound during the dentist office scene.
Take a Drink: every time Lance doesn’t get one of Milo and Maggie’s inside jokes.
By: BabyRuth (Two Beers) –
I have been looking forward to The Skeleton Twins since I first heard about it. There are three main reasons for this:
- Actors doing something completely out of the scope of what we are used to seeing them do is one of my favorite things ever.
- Not only is this a movie with actors doing something completely out of the scope of what we are used to seeing them do, the two leads are Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig.
- There is a pivotal scene featuring “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” by Starship (a.k.a. the song from Mannequin).
Estranged twins Milo (Hader) and Maggie (Wiig) are reunited after Milo is hospitalized following his attempted suicide. The siblings haven’t spoken in ten years when Maggie receives the call, which is just in time, as she was just about down a lethal handful of pills herself. Depression runs in this family; their father took his own life when the two were very young.
Maggie flies to Los Angeles, where Milo has been unsuccessful both in love and in launching his acting career. After a little prodding, he agrees to go back with her to their hometown of Nyack, New York to recover.
On the surface it appears that Maggie has it all together: a nice home, an adoring (if a little lunky) husband (Luke Wilson), and plans to start a family. However, it’s soon apparent that is not the case at all (if Maggie’s opening scene didn’t already clue you in). She’s secretly on birth control and routinely has extramarital affairs.
Milo is too wrapped up in his own drama to realize what’s going on with his sister. He uses the visit as an opportunity to try to rekindle a toxic (and at one time, illegal) relationship with his former teacher (Ty Burrell).
As the siblings reconnect and begin to rebuild their strained relationship they realize just how much each needs the other since they understand each other in a way that no one else does. But with both twins dangerously close to sabotaging themselves to the point of self-destruction, is it too late? Were they, as Maggie narrates, doomed from the beginning?
As you can probably gather from the above synopsis, the material is very dark, but writers Mark Heyman (Black Swan) and Craig Johnson (also the director) do a fine job of balancing the bleak tone with some heartwarming and a few very funny moments. And as in life, sometimes those funny moments occur within the grim ones (a ringtone of the theme song from Growing Pains during a suicide attempt is a perfect example of this).
More a slice of life character study than an in-depth exploration of depression, the film doesn’t always provide its audience with motives or answers. It also never takes sides or passes any kind of judgment. We’re just stepping onto the observation deck mid-point of a roller-coaster ride, watching these extremely dysfunctional people and experiencing every climb, fall, and stomach drop along with them.
And boy are these dysfunctional people fun to watch (I know, I know…“Fun” probably isn’t the best word).
The big takeaway here is Bill Hader. He’s already proven himself a force in comedy but this film puts him on a whole other level. The phrase ________ is a revelation! is so overused it’s lost its meaning, but in this case, Hader truly is. He’s so, so good. Confident but never showy, he delivers a brilliant, awards-worthy performance that many likely weren’t aware he was capable of.
Naturally, since the character of Milo is gay, it’s nearly impossible not to draw comparisons to Hader’s SNL alter-ego, but Stefon is nowhere to be found here.
Alright fine, maybe there’s a trace or two of him.
Hader is so effortlessly talented and likable that if he continues on this path, I predict he will have a career very similar to Tom Hanks’, Oscars and all.
Kristen Wiig is just as wonderful, though it’s a little less of a surprise she since has been taking more dramatic roles since leaving Saturday Night Live and proving herself to be very versatile. We saw glimpses of what she is capable of beginning with Bridesmaids, and this performance is the culmination. As with Hader, this is a major turning point in her career.
As great as Hader and Wiig are individually, what really makes the film is how well they play off each other. It was a smart choice to pair the two, as they already have a natural chemistry due to their close friendship and long history of working together. Seeing them portray siblings feels authentic, since in a way, they sort of are.
Of course, it’s during the funnier moments (and there are many) when the two shine brightest. One scene in particular is probably the greatest four minutes of film I’ve seen all year. I’m sure you know what I’m referring to is the much-talked about show-stopping lip sync sequence to Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.”
It’s a release for the characters and the audience alike, a few moments of pure, carefree joy amid the sadness and hopelessness. In a lesser film it would feel like a cheap tactic, but it’s well-earned and works beautifully here.
The choice of song is perfect. Anyone lucky enough to have a close relationship with a sibling has those childhood memories—the in-jokes, the movies and songs that are special to them, like a secret code. It’s completely believable that Milo and Maggie grew up watching Mannequin on VHS together, over and over (Milo doing his best Hollywood impression, I’m sure). And despite the song being a full-on cheesy 80s anthem, the lyrics are fitting – two people, having each others’ backs, crazy as they may seem to the world. Can you tell how much I loved this scene? (It may have something to do with the fact that my own sister and I used to watch Mannequin over and over as children and this song is one of our “secret codes.”)
It works both ways, though. The people you are closest to also know all your weaknesses, all the right buttons to push, and exactly what words will cut the deepest. We get some of those moments with Milo and Maggie and again, Hader and Wiig nail it.
I could go on and on about how the pair are magic together. It’s a very rare thing that can’t be faked no matter how talented the actors, so when it happens and is captured on film, it’s a treat to watch.
Moving along, I can’t leave out Luke Wilson, who is perfect in his role. It’s a pretty remarkable feat that in a movie that stars two of the best comedic actors working today, he gets the most laughs. But it’s not a caricature, there’s genuine heart to his portrayal of good-natured doof Lance.
Ty Burrell, best known for Modern Family, also gets a chance to show off some dramatic chops. His part is tricky. He’s a very unlikable character, but he somehow manages to make you not hate him as much as you know you should.
The movie feels and looks very “indie” – the score, the weird camera angles, muted colors—it’s all there and often feels very cliché and by-the-numbers. At times, even the story does (Let’s throw in a terrible hippie-dippy mother for one unnecessary scene to give these screwed up people yet another reason to be screwed up). Thankfully, the moving performances and smart writing rise above all that other stuff.
The Skeleton Twins is raw, engaging, and definitely worth seeing for career-defining performances from Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig. Both are absolutely fantastic and are what make the movie so special.
Go see this movie, don’t be this guy: