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Friday, September 12, 2014


Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader star in THE SKELETON TWINS.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Roadside Attractions
2014, 93 minutes
Rated R for language, some sexuality and drug use

Review by Joshua Handler

Craig Johnson's The Skeleton Twins is a film of depth, full of emotion, humor, and love.  I've seen a number of good films recently, but none that have touched me as much as this one.  The Skeleton Twins tells the story of Milo (Bill Hader) and Maggie (Kristin Wiig), twins who reunite after each failing to commit suidice on the same day.  Milo attempts suicide, but is miraculously found and put in the hospital.  Maggie is about to commit suicide when she gets a call that Milo has attempted suicide.  This stops her, and she goes to L.A. to pick him up and bring him home to New York.

The heart behind this film lies in the performances of Hader and Wiig, best known for their work on Saturday Night Live.  As some of the best comedians around, it was shocking to me that they had been cast in this drama.  It turned out this was one of the most ingenious casting decisions in ages.  Because Wiig and Hader started as comedians, they know how to engage their audience emotionally.  I cared about Maggie and Milo from the minute they started making me laugh early on in the film.  Wiig and Hader are subdued and soulful in The Skeleton Twins, yet they're given many opportunities to do what they do best: make us laugh.  They have a special chemistry that makes their familial relationship very believable, and it makes them a joy to watch.  And, it makes their characters' lows sting that much worse.  Special credit also goes to Luke Wilson who gives a career-best performance as Maggie's husband, Lance, that's heartfelt and very funny.

Craig Johnson wrote the screenplay with Mark Heyman (Black Swan) and the two won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.  Johnson and Heyman never allow the drama to overpower the comedy or vice versa.  The Skeleton Twins is, first and foremost, a character-driven film, and Johnson and Heyman did great work developing Maggie and Milo.  Maggie and Milo are believable, relatable, and lovable.

Johnson's direction is wondrous.  There are a number of scenes in The Skeleton Twins that have immense bite and rich subtext.  Johnson elicited stunning performances out of every one of his actors, which helps to bring this subtext to life.  To use the overused phrase, this film is a literal roller coaster of emotions.  One moment I was laughing, the next, my heart was breaking, and the next, I was laughing once again.

Overall, The Skeleton Twins is a special film that I enjoyed nearly every minute of.  Sure, it contains some fairly predictable subplots, but those truly didn't bother me since the characters are so compelling.  Again, Hader and Wiig are brilliant.  I can't praise them enough.  Anyone looking for a broad comedy, look elsewhere.  However, anyone looking for a well-made, emotionally engaging indie dramedy should run to the theater to see The Skeleton Twins.


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