The Skeleton Twins (2014)
The Skeleton Twins (2014)

Genre: Drama Running Time: 1 hr. 33 min.

Release Date: September 12th, 2014 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Craig Johnson Actors: Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Luke Wilson, Ty Burrell, Boyd Holbrook, Joanna Gleason, Kathleen Rose Perkins, Jennifer Lafleur

 


 

“M

aybe we were doomed from the beginning,” comments Maggie Dean (Kristen Wiig), as she reflects on her dissatisfactory upbringing. “The Skeleton Twins” proceeds to spice things up with upbeat, fast-paced pop music to movingly contrast an attempted suicide by her brother Milo (Bill Hader), whose admittance to a hospital in California and alerting of his emergency contact (Maggie) prevents Maggie’s own coincidentally simultaneous suicide attempt. Having been estranged for years, Maggie convinces Milo to come stay with her in New York with her husband Lance (Luke Wilson).

Reluctant to converse, slow to muster enthusiasm for any activity, and unable to feign an interest in fitting in with the perceived normalcy of his sister’s situation, Milo eventually visits a bookstore to reunite with former fling Rich Levitt (Ty Burrell). When that meeting ends abruptly, Milo invites his mother (Joana Gleason) from Arizona to visit – which turns into an equally unpleasant experience, as the woman has never expressed much concern for her children. Between uncomfortable interactions, numerous lies from all parties, scuba diving class with distracting teacher Billy (Boyd Holbrook), and brutal sibling honesty, Maggie and Milo just might repair their relationship – or destroy it permanently.

The dialogue and atmosphere have a morose tone that fits the dejected characters while also amplifying the pitch black humor. On the day of his discharge from the hospital, Milo reads “Marley and Me” for entertainment; nitrous abuse leads to the unveiling of shocking secrets amidst uncontrollable laughter; and attempts to stifle an affair lead to further sexual rendezvous and temptation. But genuine scenes of spirited emotions peak through the pervasive unhappiness, including a montage with Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna to Stop Us Now” and a Halloween celebration with wild costumes. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to counteract the overwhelming barrage of personal tragedies that continuously plague the lead duo.

What starts out as a series of aggravating complications for Maggie turns into therapeutic bonding sessions, which inspire recognition of discontentment and motivation to pursue change. But it’s an exhausting succession of dramatic happenings that leave little room for periodic small wins. Somewhat comparable to “Silver Linings Playbook” in its portrayal of mentally anguished people, yet shrouded in tremendous subtleness and devoid of a strong romantic focus, “The Skeleton Twins” dwells on “the grass is always greener” attitudes, weak wills, temper tantrums, betrayal, regret, and abrasive insults, over rousing, enjoyable triumphs.

Unexpected ambiguity at the conclusion isn’t entirely unfavorable, as it meshes with the central relationship – though it will come as a shock to viewers hoping for a typical outcome. It’s a resolution that mirrors the random journey of characters merely struggling to exist in a world that remains unfamiliar and daunting. As an examination of relationships stuck in tiresome repetition and discontent, “The Skeleton Twins” is potent; but the draining trials of suicide attempts and odysseys through the doldrums drown the subdued themes of second chances and sibling bonding, which should have remained far more victorious.

– Mike Massie

  • 4/10