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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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
'The Skeleton Twins' offers emotional depth, but a half-baked
Screenplay, takes away its glory in totality. But, the performances are
'The Skeleton Twins' Synopsis: Having both coincidentally cheated death on the same day, estranged twins reunite with the possibility of mending their relationship.
'The Skeleton Twins' begins beautifully, with the bitterness between its sibling protagonists, working well. The sub-plots are the problem here. The track involving an ex-flame is bland, while the secret-affair angle also offers nothing new. Its the main plot, which is filled with moments of true humor & emotions.
Craig Johnson & Mark Heyman's Screenplay has potential, but weak sub-plots leave you disappointed. Craig Johnson's Direcion is nicely done. Cinematography is average. Editing isn't great, either.
'The Skeleton Twins' biggest strength lies in its performances. Kristen Wiig is effective, delivering a performance of pure pain. Bill Hader is competent, as well, enacting a difficult part with flourish. And Luke Wilson steals the show. He's genius in here.
On the whole, 'The Skeleton Twins' is certainly watchable, but not very memorable.
*** 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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The film attempts to tackle themes such as suicide, marriage, closet gays and family dynamics. In the end there is surprisingly little meaning, other than it's good to have relatives' support in hard times. There are glimpses of interest, such as the twins' mother Judy being a hopeless parent who couldn't make it to Maggie's wedding and who the twins don't bother to tell about Milo's suicide attempt because they know her too well -- she wouldn't be supportive or even care. Milo's former teacher Rich is a convincing character as someone who is determined not to come out publicly as gay, and who ultimately doesn't care about Milo, despite being happy to sleep with him. As Maggie's husband, Luke Wilson does well as a cheerful, loving soul who nevertheless Maggie is not satisfied with. I feel the characters too readily turn to suicide as a solution to their problems. Is that something that should be portrayed as an option in life? It doesn't make sense that late in the film, Maggie makes Milo promise not to attempt suicide -- but then she herself attempts suicide. So to me this film is more of an indie character study. Not brilliant, but not a bad film. I think it tries to hard to be deep and meaningful. It throws a lot of ideas up on screen in the hope something will stick, but I wasn't moved by this picture.
This movie is such a mash-up of mainstream indie film clichés that it
almost plays like a spoof of Sundance dramedies. You know the kind I
mean: a dysfunctional, cynical group of individuals is forced to spend
time together and end up reconnecting with each other and, after lots
of wisecracking, '80s music interludes, and moments of forced poignancy
-- regain their humanity. But if it were a spoof, it would be
entertaining. The fact that it premiered at Sundance says a lot about
the current state of independent cinema.
The only satisfaction one can get from watching THE SKELETON TWINS is keeping a checklist of indie film conventions that this movie recycles -- from overall themes, to plot devices, to performance style, to wacky musical interlude. If you've never seen an independent film, you might be impressed by the self-consciously quirky direction, the quote-unquote dark comedy, the lovable gay character (we know he's gay because he tells us so, several times, in the first ten minutes). I wish the filmmaker had spent more time developing three-dimensional characters instead of taking other people's shortcuts.
Contrary to its confusing and misleading title, The Skeleton Twins
starring Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader is NOT a horror film.
As if the title wasn't bad enough and a release date in October, this real world dramedy starring two shining comedic stars is a gut-wrenching, tender tale of sibling rivalry and love that is relatable to every person sharing half of their genetic imprint with someone else. The Skeleton Twins is an awesome little American indie with some heart, and a lot of soul.
The siblings, Maggie and Milo, played perfectly by Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, are two people hiding from their greatest fears and darkest demons in completely different ways. After ten years of being apart, the siblings both share a near death experiences and decide to room up and bunk together in Maggie's idealistic suburban house outside the big apple. Hesitant and awkward at first, the two learn much about one another and the biggest challenges in each others lives: including Milo's inability to face reality and Maggie's fears of becoming a mother and loyal wife to her husband Lance (Luke Wilson).
While there isn't much slapstick excitement happening in The Skeleton Twins that would initially get fans of both stars into the theatre, the real comedy comes from the comedic genius and masterminds on the page; screenwriters Mark Heyman and Craig Johnson, who has double duty as director. Offering emotionally wrenching scenes that provide a full dose of clarity to our characters and heart-breaking scenes that could easily be a glimpse into each and every one of our lives, the writing duo opt for a more realistic and fresh look at the troubles plaguing two siblings familial life. From pitch perfect arguments about favourites between the siblings, to an over-bearing mother (Joanna Gleason), to perfect husband problems including the temptation of affairs and mid-life crisis that hit strong emotional cords with audience members, the film is a divine example of having a wonderful story carried by actors who need or do very little to convey their message.
Although Wiig is comedy gold throughout all of her scenes that should not be undermined, the real star in the film is consistently underused Hader. Hader, who has never really starred in his own film and given sole spotlight, of course excluding Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs, where he plays the voice of its hero Flint Lockwood, has always stood at the side of other comedic actors and has always provided a familiar face with being 'that' guy in comedies like Superbad, Paul and yes, even her. But not this time. With The Skeleton Twins, a film that equally bills Wiig and Hader, shows the dominance of Hader's comedy and his ability as a leading man. Noticeable and glorious, Hader exudes a familiar yet original signature to Milo, the gay uncle we have known to expect and love. With his scarf wrapped around his neck in the perfectly posh position, as well as giving the perfect amount of gayness to his mannerisms and movements, Hader's homosexual role works thankfully to his real secret weapon, flamboyant comedic timing. Hader has never been better.
Naturally, given the expectant comedy of its stars, the film isn't all (surprisingly) about comedy. Dealing with grim and very serious issues such as suicide, unfaithfulness and the child molestation, the film flips its tone on a dime, thanks, no less, to its stars and cloudy cinematography in the sleepy suburban town outside New York City. Both leads are able to switch instantly from comedy to heavy drama, and really flesh out the big issues that are consuming their lives and the lives of the people they love around themmostly one another. After being emotionally absent by their mother after the suicide of their father, Maggie and Milo experience the harsh realities of having a family and show-business all their own, given the film its real social consciousness, making for a very heavy and serious film.
The biggest boogyman in The Skeleton Twins is independence and growing up; facing truth, running away from your past and coming to terms with the people we are, and the changes we need to make in order to live a happy and fulfilling life. Wiig and Hader are two exceptional actors exercising their dramatic shops in their roles of two people figuring life out, like the rest of us with a real emotional presence and response.
There isn't enough praise that could be given to the script and use of witty dialogue and relatable scenes of dysfunctional family drama. It's no surprise that The Skeleton Twins snatched up the prestigious screen writing award this year at Sundance; an award that is quite reputable given the festival's reputation of originality and artistic cleverness.
But with any good emotional family melodrama coming out of the festival of the mountains, comes some effective comedic relief. Rewarding audiences not by means of character redemptions or perfectly placed saviours, the film allows the tension and heavy set drama to designate with audiences given its highly effective comedic scenes of hope and happiness. It may not be the best scene you will see all year, but an unexpected sing-along between Maggie and Milo kicking' old school to Starship's Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now will surely have you smiling and dancing your way out of your seat by the time the end credits roll.
Much like the subject matter and film itself, nothing is what it seems. With an all around solid cast, including a surprise appearance by Ty Burrell, in an unconventional role that spins his image as patriarch Phil from the television hit Modern Family on its head, The Skeleton Twins may very well be one of the best dysfunctional farm family dramady's in a long time.
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