SIFF Film Review – The Skeleton Twins

The Skeleton Twins

The Skeleton Twins

It’s kind of remarkable. Saturday Night Live alumni from the 21st century have been showing up in films where they’ve created some really strong character work as of late. If you look at the recent work of Andy Samberg in Celeste and Jesse Forever or the surprisingly centered support Maya Rudolph provided in The Way Way Back or Will Forte‘s exceptional turn in Nebraska you can see a pattern of some real depth emerging from these comedic talents. Is it possible that this group of SNL performers that all worked together for so many years fostered more soul and strong sense of character than most? And isn’t it interesting that the gestation time for all of these projects is roughly equivalent? These kind of solid, small, indie pieces have been released within about a year of each other and all seem to have their merits.

Along those lines comes another moving study titled The Skeleton Twins. Premiering locally at the Seattle International Film Festival it stars Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader as sister and brother. It is a comically serious piece that deals with mental instability, loss, death, finding oneself, and rediscovering that special bond between siblings. It’s often said that childhood is something you survive and your siblings are the only ones that went through the trenches with you. In this film, the two stars create a real sense of a shared history.

Wiig plays Maggie. Hader plays Milo. We meet these estranged fraternal twins just as both are contemplating suicide. Milo’s attempt to slit his wrists in the bathtub lands him in the hospital while Maggie just never follows through on swallowing a handful of pills. Maggie is contacted by the hospital to come care for her brother whom she hasn’t seen in 10 years. She invites him to come stay with her and her very earnest husband sweetly played by Luke Wilson. The twins’ journey of healing and recovery forms the basis of the film.

The Skeleton Twins Movie Still 1

It’s refreshing that the script takes it’s time in revealing details about their lives. For instance, there was a dramatic episode in their collective past that isn’t revealed until late in the film. However, it’s not meant as the sole reason for their behavior or a cheap turn meant to be the sole defining cause of their current dysfunction. Milo being homosexual is treated as very matter of fact. Maggie’s feelings on her husband wanting to have kids are refreshingly complicated. Everything is a bit messy in their lives. And that feels more real.

There are a couple of scenes that get repetitive. A bonding sequence where the twins make each other giggle relentlessly while high on dental anesthetic goes on for a few too many fart jokey moments. But more often than not their sibling banter is funny and entertaining. These two performers are always watchable.

The look of the film is decidedly indie-film “spare”. You can tell this isn’t a huge production. But the performances are winning, the drama avoids hyperbole, and the script feels genuine. This is definitely the kind of movie you want to seek out when choosing festival fare. Recommended.

The Skeleton Twins plays May 16th at the Egyptian Theatre.




I'm a family man who got his Drama degree back when the dinosaurs roamed the earth and now works at a desk. I love movies of all kinds, and I am still working my way through the list of 1001 movies you must see before you die.

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