“I don’t know. Maybe we were doomed from the beginning. I mean, it’s not like dad was Mr. Sunshine. Sometimes I think all our problems came directly from him. But a lot of the good stuff did too. Remember what he always called us? The Gruesome Twosome. He told us to stick together. No matter what. God, what the hell happened to us?”
So opens The Skeleton Twins with a voiceover from Kristen Wiig. Contained in that opening monologue is such a wealth of genuine humanity and emotional resonance that I was immediately hooked and reeled into Craig Johnson‘s movie about dysfunctional, estranged siblings battling depression. The excitement that grew from hearing the movie’s introspective mission statement about its two central characters never let up.
Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader play Maggie and Milo Dean, twins who haven’t spoken in a decade and, following a failed suicide attempt, reconnect as Milo moves in with her and her husband Lance (Luke Wilson). From there, the tattered relationship of the twins slowly heals as they reconnect and rediscover their bond.
The script, beautifully constructed by Johnson and Mark Heyman, seamlessly weaves exposition through poignant dialogue, unveiling the characters’ backstories in a completely organic way. We’re given small bits and pieces about key events in the twins’ lives that shaped who they are but none of the exposition feels spoon-fed or forced. The characters come into focus as they move forward while also dealing with the pain of living and the fallout of new challenges.
Wiig and Hader deliver strong dramatic performances packed with chemistry. The magic of casting these strong comedic talents in a drama shines in scenes where the twins are enjoying each other’s company and trying to make each other laugh. These sequences feel so genuine and down to earth they offset the drama without compromising the overall tone.
Luke Wilson takes on the supporting role of Maggie’s perfect on paper but nice to a fault husband Lance. Wilson finds a strong center to the character without going overboard. Lance is a fun-loving, excited man who’s ultimately oblivious to his wife’s mental state and somewhat of an airhead. The movie takes from Wilson’s character what it needs and doesn’t ask for much more. Part of me wishes there was more resolution to his arc in the movie but ultimately the story is about the twins and Lance serves only to enhanced that perspective.
Ty Burrell plays Rich, an old flame that Milo attempts to reconnect with. The subplot involving Rich and Milo is more understated than Lance’s relationship with Maggie but it carries more resonance to the overall plot. There wasn’t much room for Burrell to do anything except act as a vessel of exposition and react to Hader. Burrell gave a solid performance with what he had but I do wish the role and his relationship with Milo was expanded a little.
The Skeleton Twins tells a poignant and absorbing story about siblings rediscovering the strength garnered from their presence in each other’s lives. While there’s a little left to be desired out of some of the supporting characters, the chemistry between the two leads and an otherwise strong script help make this movie an entrenching and heartfelt experience.
Buy it Full Price – Worthy of purchase regardless of price. But you’ll want to see it first, just to make sure you want it in your collection.