DIR: Craig Johnson • WRI: Mark Heyman, Craig Johnson • PRO: Stephanie Langhoff, Jennifer Lee, Jacob Pechenik • DOP: Reed Morano • ED: Jennifer Lee • DES: Ola Maslik • MUS: Nathan Larson • CAST: Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Luke Wilson
It has become an unspoken trope of the comic actor’s career that they must, at some point, try to “break out” – to land a role with enough dramatic weight that they might slip free of whatever one-liner or bit role previously defined them in the eyes of the audience. Some succeed, many don’t, but even the most successful of these ventures can often feel like a career move posited in a publicist’s office rather than a genuine desire to break form.
Not so with The Skeleton Twins; director Craig Johnson’s second effort sees estranged twins Maggie and Milo reunited after a shared trauma in their lives – namely their separate attempts at suicide on the same day, hundreds of miles apart. With SNL alums Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig taking a turn as the titular twins, this could have easily been a cynical vehicle for actors aiming to establish dramatic chops. Instead what unfolds is a nuanced, understated drama with a biting comic edge that can’t help but be sincere.
Fresh from a spell in hospital, a reluctant Milo moves in with his sister, oblivious to the fact that his emergency phone-call only just interrupted her own attempt at an overdose. Appalled at her seemingly picket-fence marriage to the uncomplicated Lance (Luke Wilson), Milo is determined to reconnect with the sister he remembers, only to discover the more that he picks at the threads of her life, the more it unravels.
Anchored by excellent performances from all involved (Luke Wilson in particular does surprising things with the dull, puppy-like Lance), it is this quietly desperate edge that sets The Skeleton Twins apart from other mumblecore fare. Where the indie sub-genre is largely typified by protagonists suffering early onset mid life crises or a long awaited coming-of-age, The Skeleton Twins instead revolves around stasis, the quiet traumas that creep up on you.
Much will be made of the chemistry between Wiig and Hader, and for good reason – their easy banter is put to great use here, encompassing the improvised skits we’re used to seeing as well as achingly awkward moments where forced punchlines fail to fill the silence. Mishandled, the subject matter could have very easily tipped over into something trite, but instead plays out as something a little more nuanced that resists the urge to tidy up after itself.
12A (See IFCO for details)
The Skeleton Twins is released 7th November 2014
The Skeleton Twins – Official Website