Twins Milo (Bill Hader) and Maggie (Kristen Wiig) have not seen one another in many years, but when Milo attempts suicide, the call from the hospital interrupts Maggie’s own attempt at death. The twins reconnect and, over time, begin to realise what drove them apart in the first place.
The Skeleton Twins may present itself as a dramedy about suicide, but underneath the surface, it really is the story of family, the damage we do to one another and what we can do to repair it.
Bill Hader does a wonderful job as Milo; a gay man struggling with depression after the end of his relationship. Hader makes Milo a man who hides his demons under humour, and his shady one-liners are often hilarious. Kristen Wiig plays a more subdued role than we are used to seeing, but does well with the role. She is as quiet as Milo is outgoing, and although she seems to be the twin who has her life together, it soon becomes clear that all is not what it seems. The chemistry between the two leads is lovely, and speaks to years of shared sibling experience. Of course it helps that these two leads worked together on SNL, and they translate this relationship onto the screen.
Luke Wilson plays Maggie’s husband Lance and strikes a careful balance in the character, between caring and annoying. It’s a difficult line, but Wilson walks it well. Ty Burrell plays Rich, a seemingly straight man who Milo had an affair with years before, and who was the catalyst for a lot of tension between Milo and his sister.
Writers Mark Heyman and Craig Johnson allow the secrets of the family to be revealed slowly, so the audience understand where the tension comes from, and the past that the twins have shared. The comedic moments – such as the twins lip-synching Starship’s Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now, and their mother’s seeming inability to live in the real world – are warm and funny, but it is also obvious that this is used by the characters to cover up the tragedy in their lives and their relationship. The quiet, private moments are well scripted and subtle, but there are times when the large, decisive moments feel a little over written and more than a little convenient.
As director, Craig Johnson does his job capably, and focuses on Wiig and Hader at the centre of the film. Neither one is allowed to swamp the other, instead complimenting and encouraging one another. Hader does play up the camp factor slightly, but never enough to be offending, or anything other than believable. Wiig’s despondence about her life feels real and well created.
In all, The Skeleton Twins is a carefully constructed family dramedy that brings tears and laughter in almost equal measure. Wiig and Hader are wonderful together and, although some of the scenes are over written and others are a little contrived, this film about family and the affect we have on one another is sweet and warm.