The Skeleton Twins
The Short-In a year that might just be defined by comedic actors scoring big in dramas, Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig come along and give the greatest acting work of their respective careers. Hader and Wiig are heartbreaking and give award caliber performances in The Skeleton Twins, following its impeccable showing at Sundance the Craig Johnson directed film coasts into theaters being hailed as one of the year’s best films and it really is.
So in a year that could give Steve Carrell and Channing Tatum (For Foxcatcher) a shot at Oscars along with The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart(For Rosewater) it may not shock as many of you that as of today two of the year’s best performances have come from SNL alums Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig. Hader and Wiig headline The Skeleton Twins, a Drama/Comedy about 2 siblings that reconnect after 10 years apart after one attempts to commit suicide. Hader and Wiig play Milo and Maggie, Milo a starving actor in LA has just failed to commit suicide, Maggie with a handful of pills in her hand gets the call of her brother’s botched suicide and flies to LA to bring him to New York in order to watch over him. To say that this is the best performance of Bill Hader’s career is obvious, Hader is heartbreaking, a car crash that you just can’t look away from as he fails to say the right thing and even more fails to be rid of his depression. Wiig’s character is no better and both actors get their big moments throughout the course of The Skeleton Twins’ generously short runtime. Wiig’s Maggie is a dentist who struggles staying loyal to her loving husband who is played in all his puppy dog glory by Luke Wilson. Between Wiig’s uneasiness in all things especially during a surprise visit from her mother and dealing with the day to day drama that is her brother and Wilson’s easy going, everything is awesome attitude both actors work off each other quite well. The relationship between brother and sister is the films greatest advantage, and Hader and Wiig reflect the melancholy alive in the script that won big at Sundance. Hader is able to embody Milo’s sarcastic, downtrodden persona, while remaining the most screwed up of all the characters (Wiig’s Maggie is nearly tied for first in that regard) the SNL alum shines brightest and believe it or not could actually find himself on a list of nominees come January. Wiig gets just as many opportunities for an awards moment and especially during an argument between Maggie and Milo where she throws barbs at her brother in spectacular fashion.
The Skeleton Twins is directed and written by second timer Craig Johnson (True Adolescence) and produced by Indie film auteurs Mark Duplass and Jay Duplass (The Puffy Chair, Jeff Who Lives At Home) The film has the Duplass signature comedic melancholy all over it but Johnson’s strategy is let the actors do the hard work. He gives us a beautiful upstate New York landscape to place these two screwed up people in and lets his magnificent script and the actors performances be the main attraction. The other extremely positive aspect of The Skeleton Twins is not dragging the film out Its 1 hour and 31 minute runtime is incredibly important. There was no evident reason to keep the movie going past where it ended and while a simplistic point to be critical of you will never hear me complain about a movie that has a plot, a beginning, middle, and end with notable performances and still only keeps you long enough to note the 30 minutes of previews beforehand. Along with the three leads, you get a quick but zany performance from Joanna Gleason as Milo and Maggie’s hippie mother and a dramatic performance from Ty Burrell (Modern Family) as a former teacher of Milo’s that may be one of the reasons behind his depression. The films script helps deliver each and every sad twist and turn only when the characters feel like delving into them. Burrell’s reasoning for being the object of Milo’s affection is not even revealed to us until the film’s final 10 minutes and the reason behind the kid’s poor relationship with their mom is only revealed after the mothers failed visit.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Skeleton Twins, it made me happy to see an indie film handle such things like depression and the existential crisis that seems to inhabit all of us that is living a normal life and not getting anywhere close to greatness. It’s a smart drama with many comedic aspects but thanks to truly gut-wrenching performances by Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig The Skeleton Twins swiftly climbs the ladder as one of 2014’s best films.