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Upstate NY is the setting for this funny and poignant film about a set
of twins that split apart but are brought together by near-death
It is difficult to make a movie that can go from laughter to the depths of anguish and remain entertaining or even believable, but "The Skeleton Twins" manages it well; but without Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig the degree of difficulty would have increased significantly.
Hader plays a gay wannabe actor who is not doing well out in LA and paying his rent by waiting tables; Wiig is his twin who has stayed in the small town where they grew up and she is a dental hygienist. Although the flamboyantly gay "Stephone" was a Hader favorite on Saturday Night Live, do not expect a stereotype with Milo: this is a human and not a joke.
Wiig's Maggie is a flawed character, and both sibs are scarred by their dreadful childhood. How they eventually come to depend on each other is a thing of beauty.
Finally, cheers to Craig Johnson for the way he wrote Luke Wilson's Lance: the straight guy who just wants Maggie to be happy and have his children. Johnson makes him a noble character unlike the buffoon so many in Hollywood would have made of this type.
The chemistry between Wiig and Hader is incredible, and Wilson is a joy to behold. This is a must-see.
Laughing at the pain of two siblings who unknowingly attempt to kill
themselves at the same time, reunite due to this tragedy after ten
years of non-communication.
With Kristen Wig in the movie, I was expecting to laugh, but I think the best laughs came from Bill Hader. His role as Milo, A gay actor who's life is know where near what he expected in high school, sets us on a whirlwind of emotions as he tries to cope with being back home after being away for so long.
Luke Wilson's supporting role as a the likable husband to Kristen Wig's character also gave me a big chuckle as well.
Rounding out the cast is Ty Burrell, best known for his role on Modern Family. It was cool to see him do something out of Type.
It was weird laughing at people with such messed up lives but some say this is the secret to great comedy, that it comes from a dark place. The filmmakers were able to show light coming from this darkness and it was well played in a way that made the twin's issues relateable to us.
It was a great drama with a lot of comedy in it, A must see.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I went to this film at the Sundance premier based on the cast. Knowing this was a Drama with comedic talent left me hopeful but skeptical that it would not be a fish out of water (watch the film to see why I use that analogy) The movie was great. Kristin Wiig was the star she is. Bill Hader was strong in his first dramatic role and the chemistry between these two successful comedians paid off in spades. I believe Luke Wilson will not get his deserved credit in the film due to the role of the leading players, but he was fabulous. This was a drama highlighting some tough stuff. The talent of these actors and their ability to shift to comic relief was the highlight of the film. Get ready to laugh and cry. It was good.
Always given the bit-part characters in the great Apatow comedies of 6
or 7 years ago, it was a mistake of mine to never take Bill Hadar or
Kristen Wiig seriously. Sure, Wiig showed some dramatic weight in
Bridesmaids, but that was a light comedy after all. The Skeleton Twins
is a lot darker, looking at suicide and failure. Wiig and Hadar's
conviction really elevate the material here, especially the latter as
her gay brother Milo. Their chemistry is predictably a joy to watch. I
just wish I related to it more. I could empathize to a point but I
didn't identify with it. It's a little difficult to feel too much
sympathy for characters who spend the film feeling sorry for themselves
and putting themselves into situations that hurt them. Nevertheless,
the consequences the film explores are heartbreaking and authentic,
especially the confrontations in its final 20 minutes. It has a lovely
visual style to go with the mood with a soft washed out look paired
with a great soundtrack, especially a memorable lip syncing scene that
whisks you away with it. Perhaps it's too familiar or too irreverent
for its own good, but it's certainly a good effort from everyone.
Greetings again from the darkness. Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Ty Burrell
and Luke Wilson ... prepare yourself for 90 minutes of side-splitting
laughter! OK, well you can prepare all you want, but you should know
that while there are some funny moments, this is one of the bleakest
films of the year. Bleak as in achingly painful to watch at times due
to the emotional pain most every character experiences.
Hopefully no one stopped reading after "side-splitting laughter" because here is a sampling of thematic elements covered in the film: attempted suicide, suicide of a parent, adultery, sexual abuse of a minor, rampant lying, depression, horrific parenting, drug use, animal cruelty.
If Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig of SNL fame don't spring to mind when considering those elements, please keep an open mind. Both are extremely good (and believable) in their roles as twins estranged for a decade, forced back together after a near tragedy. See, after a miserable childhood, their time apart has prevented both from establishing a strong personal relationship with anyone else. Hader plays a self-professed "gay cliché", while Wiig is pretending to have the perfect suburban life with her gung-ho, always "up", good guy husband (Luke Wilson).
The film's best humor is produced in small moments thanks to the connection between Wiig and Hader. It's definitely not in the almost shameful attempts at crowd-pleasing offered in the SNL-ish scenes of lip-synching to Starship, and over-indulging on Nitrous Oxide at the dental office.
Real emotional turmoil exists in the scenes between Hader and Ty Burrell, and the unnecessary and inexplicable reunion between Hader, Wiig and their mother (Joanna Gleason). Burrell, known for his outstanding "Modern Family" role, is intriguing as a dramatic actor. Looking forward to more of this from him.
The script, co-written by director Craig Johnson and Mark Heyman, really does capture some poignant and dramatic moments, and certainly benefits from the extremely talented cast. Just don't expect that side-splitting laughter ... unless you are susceptible to lip-synching and/or nitrous oxide.
The Skeleton Twins tells the story of two estranged twins, Maggie and Milo and the hardships that come with their lives. To start off, this film is one of the best films of the year, hands down. Bill Hader and Kristin Wigg prove that they are not only talented comedic actors but excellent actors all around. Coming off of their Saturday Night Live days, this film is proof that these two have more to offer than sketch comedy. The story, while dark and dreary, still manages to score some great laughs. Despite a huge theme being suicide and the reasoning behind why one would take their own life, it manages to keep the material light but still packs some heavy emotional punches in certain scenes. A film that can balance something as serious as suicide while still making you laugh is an accomplishment in its own right, in my opinion. There is only so much I can say about the story without giving too much away, but I will say that it is as close to perfect as a film can get. The actors are stellar all around the board, made up of Wigg, Hader, Luke Wilson and Ty Burrel, this cast is utterly fantastic. Luke Wilson steals the show in scenes with Hader but what Hader does with his character is takes something very two dimensional on paper and transforms it into something provocative and sharp, it would not surprise me if an Oscar nomination comes his way for this. Kristin Wigg is on point as Maggie, commanding the screen with the perfect balance of comedic sharpness and dramatic pull. She is a marvel in this film and should also get some sort of recognition for this. Overall, I cannot praise this film enough. It is sharp, witty, dramatic, funny and heart warming. It is the feel good movie that you'll walk out of and want to see it again as soon as possible.
Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader are such comedy wunderkinds that a dramatic
role sounds like a waste. We can picture Wiig screwing around a room
with the pizazz of Carol Burnett, with Hader, alongside her, spitting
out wicked lines in a wacky voice. Though The Skeleton Twins has a
handful of funny moments, it is first and foremost a gloomy drama; we
may all love Wiig and Hader's antics on Saturday Night Live, but they
are blessed with some serious acting talent. It's the Double Indemnity
to their Ball of Fire, the War and Peace to their Sabrina.
Twins Maggie (Wiig) and Milo (Hader) have been estranged for 10 years. They're reacquainted, however, when Maggie receives a call from an unknown number; she is informed that Milo has attempted suicide. In one hand, she holds the phone. In the other is a smattering of pills. It's a coincidence that seems as though God set it up just for them. Maggie immediately invites Milo to stay with her and her picture perfect husband, Lance (Luke Wilson), in their suburban New York home; but just as they begin to reconnect, they are forced to face their innermost demons.
Milo has been living in Los Angeles for a decade, desperate to become a famous actor. He's seen little success, his life marred with constant disappointment. Maggie knows that she has married a good man, but she is bored with her comfortable, predictable marriage; she's partaken in several affairs and has purposely destroyed any chances of having a baby, something Lance dreams of.
The people in The Skeleton Twins aren't unstable in a melodramatic fashion. They are disappointed with their lives, ready to do something drastic just to inject meaning into their veins. Milo thought he'd be the bullied outsider that could, one day, come to a class reunion and laugh at his balding, middling tormentors. Maggie thought that she could live in domestic bliss and stay within that bliss. But it doesn't happen.
The film explores several relationships, going back and forth between Milo and Maggie, Milo and his ex-lover, Rich (Ty Burrell), who destroyed his teenage years, and the siblings and their flighty mother (Joanna Gleason). The conversations glide over and under sheer wit and blood- letting, the characters are written with hundreds of layers. They hit close to home, making us question our own self-confidence and achievements.
But it's one of those films in which the biggest successes come from the actors. If they didn't have chemistry, The Skeleton Twins would never work. Yet the emotional bonds (good or bad) between the actors in the film are so instantaneously genuine that there is a fluidity that makes the anguish all the more real. The laughs are quick, but they are consistently overtaken by the somber sequences that follow them. Because, in real life, a joke can be thrown off a roof if you open up an old wound.
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Make no bones about it, the indie comedy-drama "The Skeleton Twins" is a nice little picture about two depressed siblings who reunite after not seeing each other for 10 years, and let's just say that the skeletons soon start coming out of their closets as they reveal much about themselves. The film stars SNL alumnus Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig as Milo and Maggie. Milo is a struggling actor in Los Angeles who unsuccessfully attempts suicide in the film's opening scene. That near death experience brings him to reunite with his estranged sister Maggie who takes Milo to her hometown New York, so he could be in a New York state of mind. Anyways, Maggie is no bright chip of the old block either. She is unhappy in her marriage with a caring, devoted husband. She cheats on her husband and is taking birth control pills behind her husband's back. Maggie is one skeleton twin that is bad to the bone. The performances from Hader and Wiig were outstanding, and it was what brought the film to life. I also thought Luke Wilson was brilliant as Maggie's husband Lance. However, I was not too enamored with Craig Johnson's direction and screenplay of the movie. Too me it was a bit uneven and it might have needed some bare bones exuberance to the filmmaking of "The Skeleton Twins". But I am still recommending this movie as a solid viewing, and no joints are even required to get a semi-cinematic high watching "The Skeleton Twins". *** Average
"The Skeleton Twins" has so much raw material to work with that it's
nearly tragic it didn't turn out to be a better movie.
Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig have a tremendous amount of chemistry as dysfunctional brother and sister who are brought back together by his attempted suicide after years of being estranged. The point of the movie -- which I only know because it was told to me by the film, not because it actually does a good job of conveying it -- is that these two siblings, contentious though they may be, are the best thing for each other, and that their lives are better when they're together than either's is for them when they are not.
I'll have to take the movie's word for it, because Hader and Wiig create such messed up characters that it's utterly inconceivable they could possibly help one another until they've helped themselves. I think we're supposed to think they're likable underneath their gloomy angst, mostly because they burst into spontaneous lip synch performances of 80s movie ballads, but they sure as hell aren't any fun to spend time with. The film drags on and on, giving these two talented comedians virtually no opportunities to be remotely funny, and then forces a completely implausible ending on us that we're supposed to accept as evidence that this particular brother and sister can't live without each other.
The character I identified most with was the one played by Luke Wilson, good guy husband to Kristen Wiig who she and Bill Hader treat like crap. I wanted to ditch the two tortured souls and go have a beer with him instead.
Oh, and the award for most heavy handed symbolism of the year (the goldfish) goes to...you guessed it...."The Skeleton Twins."
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Skeleton Twins' strongest belief is valuing and preserving the
relationship between siblings to resolve the traumatic memories and
experiences of the past and a perpetual domestic crisis, where modern
relationships have presently failed to become emotionally gratifying
for the main characters. By the end of the film though there is a sense
that the main characters, a brother and sister, would rather belong to
each other rather than conceding there is a time in our lives when our
siblings' path becomes separate from our own. The film's director Craig
Johnson has described the film as being like a love story between the
brother and sister who rediscover each other. Although a small
independent film, the way The Skeleton Twins stresses the traditional
values of family and childhood nostalgia is symmetrical with some
mainstream Hollywood films. What these films shield from us is that
departing from our families as grow older isn't a tragedy. It is a fact
of life that accompanies growth and maturity as we leave our families
behind to test ourselves as adults.
The film isn't an autobiography of its director Johnson but shares some of his personal values and desires. Johnson is an openly gay director who says that he connects strongly to his own sister through humour. The film itself offers clear parallels. It stars former Saturday Night Live comedians Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig as Milo and Maggie, a brother and sister duo who haven't spoken to each other in ten years. The film opens with images of them as children both playing dress-ups, which signposts that in the present day Milo is gay. The siblings are reunited unceremoniously through a juxtaposed suicide attempt. Milo lies in a bath as the water turns bloody and Maggie has a handful of pills ready to swallow. A call stops her from committing suicide and she visits her brother in the hospital. She allows him to stay with her and her husband Lance (Luke Wilson). To Milo's disapproval Lance seems active and jock- like, but he is kind enough to offer his brother-in-law work and encourages Maggie to take diving lessons which lands her in trouble.
By being a small slice of life film, Johnson has compared the style of his work to other observational comedy-dramas like Noah Baumbach's The Squid and the Whale. Despite having two comedians in the lead roles, the film has a droll, highly understated and deadpan tone, which distinguishes it from Wiig's broader comedies like Bridesmaids. The film is most honest and real when allowing its leads to make poor choices that enriches the drama and underlines the seriousness of their flaws. Unhappy with her marriage, Maggie secretly takes birth control pills even though Lance believes they are trying for a baby. She also starts having an affair with her obnoxious diving instructor (Boyd Holbrook). Milo is still envious of people in high school and bitter about failing to be an actor. He attempts to reunite with Rich (Ty Burrell), a former high school teacher to whom Milo had a relationship with when he was fifteen. Both siblings are still haunted by their father's suicide when they were children. Through their troubled relationships with other people they grasp at an unreachable past because their adult lives have been disappointing. The plot points are fairly interesting as far as they go but their scarcity also highlights the leanness of the story, meaning the film doesn't elevate to the heights of a Baumbach or Alexander Payne film.
The sense of anguish and pain is most impressively humanised by Wiig's surprising and accomplished performance. From the start of the film, her sunken body language perfectly stresses the unhappiness and the weight that she feels in her life. A close-up shot of her face shows a tear running down her cheek during her suicide attempt which further realises the sadness of her character. Additionally, there is a strong climax where Maggie's fury at Milo ignites and the transcendent way that Wiig disappears into her role as she projects this anger rates as a career highlight. There are a few laughs, mostly from the film's quiet and sly humour and a sight gag where Milo tries undertaking gardening work while wearing a t-shirt and scarf. The comedy falters when it becomes more obvious and forced. One example is when Johnson creates set pieces for the two comedians, like when they inhale nitrous oxide at Maggie's dental hygiene workplace, which isn't very funny, and a slightly better scene where their bond is expressed by miming the Starship song "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now". Both sequences express the characters rediscovering the juvenility that cements them together as part of their aim to be childlike. But why are so many films today desperate to make adults into children again? It is a question further amplified by the film's troubled ending, which is contrived and dilutes the stronger ideas about the unreachable past while also bordering on wish fulfillment that siblings will always get us out of a jam. The truth is that everyone has to stand on their own two feet by themselves and learn to keep their own head above the water - even in the movies.
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