Director: Craig Johnson
Cast: Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Luke Wilson, Ty Burrell
Plot: Two twins (Hader, Wiig) reconnect after ten years of not talking to each other, old grudges and secrets floating to the surface.
Hader and Wiig, in the comedy circuit, are big names. Both have had a strong career on Saturday Night Live and have been in top American comedy films longer than you remember. Recently, they have been getting larger and larger roles. Wiig wowed in Bridesmaids, hit the big time with Ghostbusters and has been a solid performer in between. Hader’s filmography is just as extensive, ranging from all your favourite comedy films from Superbad all the way to Trainwreck. Skeleton Twins pairs the both of them together as two twins going through life. However, this film is far from the kind of movie you would expect to find this pairing. While classed as a comedy, The Skeleton Twins is far from the rib-aching laugh-fest you would find in a Judd Apatow vehicle, instead a slow-burning character piece, which gives both Hader and Wiig two deeply complex roles to fill. It opens with both Hader and Wiig attempting suicide, looking for a way out of their miserable existence. Wiig’s suicide is only stopped when the hospital calls her about her brother’s own attempt. In order to get her brother on the straight and narrow, Wiig forces on a brave face and lets Hader stay with her and her husband, until he seems ready to head back to his own life. For a long while, the story focuses on Hader’s plight, tricking the audience into forgetting that Wiig was inches from taking her own life as well. She has a healthy relationship with nice guy, Luke Wilson, the two of them preparing for a honeymoon to Hawaii and trying for a baby. Hader is a mess, a single gay guy with a crush on the English teacher who molested him as a boy. As he veers from chirpy party-goer to drunken jerk in an attempt to pick up the broken pieces of his life, Wiig reflects on her own problems. She is not only taking birth control on the side to combat her husband’s attempts to father a child with her, but is a serial cheater, unable to stop herself from sleeping with anyone who resembles the opposite of her own husband. The two siblings clash, share and try to get lost in their own lives, in an abrasive journey that may or may not help piece them together.
When the dust settles, The Skeleton Twins will be remembered for the lead performers. The supporting cast, Luke Wilson (more toned down than his usual stints in comedy), and Ty Burrell (Hader’s English teacher who combats stereotype with ease), are great in their respective roles, but compared to the leads, they fade into the backdrop of the story. Hader and Wiig have been comedic actors for so long, it is refreshing to see them shake off their origins and tackle something with added bite. Hader has never even entertained serious before, so seeing him as the catty gay always moments from slipping into depression is a fascinating watch. Hader’s character is more allowed to embrace comedy (the subject material is so dark and bleak that the script does need the actors to tell jokes just for the audience’s survival), his character using dry sarcasm as a shield against the gritty reality of life. However, the emotional monologues and pain behind his eyes are equally as effective as the jokes, making Hader’s performance a beautifully holistic one, of a tortured soul. Wiig has always threatened to be just as strong a serious actor as a comedian, so it is no surprise that she landed herself with the female role. However, that being said, her stint here is a show-stealing phenomenon of a performance, as the fractured woman breaking apart under the strain of her own life. Wiig has never been this captivating and by the time, you reach the midway point in the story, you would have forgotten all about her comedy origins and will see her simply as the character she is portraying on-screen. For any fan of the actress, who don’t mind letting the jokes slide into a secondary need, then this is a must-see film. Credit must go to Craig Johnson for getting the most out of the pairing. There must have been moments where he encouraged restraint on the jokes. Hader’s depiction of homosexuality is a neat blend between caricature and real, that must have had a director’s watchful eye to keep from sliding into stereotype. There are moments from both performers where someone must have asked them to dial back the gags slightly, muscle memory never becoming a problem. It’s a powerful force for the Skeleton Twins, because it makes the laugh-out-loud scenes all the more hard-hitting. When Hader lip-syncs ‘Nothing’s Going To Stop Us Now’ by Starship, bang-splat in the middle of a film about suicide, therapists and child molesters, it totally works. Johnson has created a film that stays with you, a beautiful character piece that might not be the film you intend to sit down to watch, but one that you will be better off for doing so.
Final Verdict: Hader and Wiig are extraordinary in this slow-burning, heart-warming character drama, miles from their comfort zone.