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 them–mostly 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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