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SIFF ADVANCE: The Skeleton Twins - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
SIFF ADVANCE: The Skeleton Twins
Directing: B+
Acting: A-
Writing: A-
Cinematography: B
Editing: A-

The Skeleton Twins exceeds expectations on nearly every front. Who knew a dramedy starring two Saturday Night Live alumni could be so affecting? Kristen Wiig is arguably less of a surprise; even in comedies, like Bridesmaids, she is already well established as a solid, nuanced performer.

The more delightful surprise is that Bill Heder, who created beloved gay characters on SNL, is very much Wiig's equal, and well matched as Milo, gay twin to Wiig's Maggie.

There's actually some pretty heavy stuff here: the film opens with Milo's suicide attempt. Then we cut to Maggie on the verge of her own suicide attempt, interrupted by the phone call informing her that Milo is in the hospital. There's a very darkly comic undertone to this turn of events, and it sets the stage for the movie well.

We learn that Milo and Maggie haven't seen or spoken to each other in ten years. In time, we learn why; unlike far too many other movies, their baggage gets unpacked organically over the course of the movie. Maggie invites Milo to come live with her and her husband Lance (a genial Luke Wilson) for a while. In only one scene, but a very memorable one, we meet their mother (a well cast Joanna Gleason), who turns out to be stunningly egocentric; we start to get some glimpses of why Maggie and Milo are both so fucked up, in their own very specific ways.

But this is not some typically mopey indie movie about fucked up people. Maggie and Milo, even as they both struggle to overcome their disappointment in the way their lives turned out, still manage to find moments of joy. This is particularly refreshing, adding extra dimension to their characters. When Maggie and Milo collapse in giggling fits in Maggie's dentist office while high on nitrous oxide, we don't feel like we're seeing two actors having a blast in a movie; we feel like we're watching two siblings with an intimately intertwined past decompress some of their stresses. And it's also pretty funny.

And despite the heaviness of the broader story -- these two lost their father as teenagers, a clearly formative moment in their lives -- a lot of The Skeleton Twins is very funny. The "lip syncing duet" scene is a long established movie trope, but these two truly make it their own.

And nearly every character in this movie bucks any kind of stereotype. Ty Burrel shows up in a role that would be thankless in anyone else's hands, as the teacher with whom Milo has a definitively creepy past, although Milo still doesn't seem to understand how creepy it was. And Burrel gives his closeted teacher, if not a whole lot of dignity, then some humanity.

Director and co-writer Craig Johnson directs The Skeleton Twins with deeply affecting sensitivity. If I had anything close to a complaint, it would be that a few things are left oddly unresolved in the end, but these things are secondary to the story of Maggie and Milo. This movie is all about them, and the performances Johnson gets out of Wiig and Hader makes for that rarest of things: a truly unique, memorable and satisfying movie-going experience.

the skeleton twins

Overall: A-
1 comment or Leave a comment
plantmom From: plantmom Date: May 17th, 2014 10:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
I never saw Kristin Wiig on regular TV, but I loved her in Bridesmaids, and then on Portlandia.
1 comment or Leave a comment