The Skeleton Twins (2014) Directed by Craig Johnson. With Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Luke Wilson, Ty Burrell, Boyd Holbrook, Joana Gleason.
The pairing of Saturday Night Livers, Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig in any film has my immediate attention. Both have repeatedly tickled my funny bone over the past several years, and the opportunity to see them playing brother and sister in a film they co-headline is too enticing a prospect to wait for. Hence, I rushed out and immediately bought the new DVD, knowing next-to-nothing about the overall tone. I was surprised.
Aside from small moments, this is a million-miles from the Hader and Wiig we know and love. This is two gifted comics demonstrating a reservoir of talent that had been waiting in the wings. It is an introverted family drama about two estranged siblings, dealing with depression and anxiety. They come together through a near tragedy to pick up the pieces of their lives in an attempt to reconnect with their old selves. Between the gaps, magic happens.
Directed by Craig Johnson, (who also co-wrote the award-winning screenplay), aspects of the film reminded me of the Colin Firth film, A Single Man. Not only are there thematic and narrative similarities, like that film, there is also a dim undercurrent of sadness to it, yet here it is punctuated by the presence of two comic actors with the ability to prick the bubble of gloom at any given moment. For example, one scene in which Hader and Wiig lip-sync the 1980’s power-pop ballad ‘Nothings Gonna Stop Us Now’ is a moment of brilliance in which they both do what they do best. True story – my glasses steamed up and my smile ached during the sequence.
Make no mistake, though, we aren’t being asked to completely side with these characters. We’re allowed to gain an understanding and some empathy, at times, but ultimately the writing and performances are designed to show us people that we’d like to root for, but conversely, is at pains to point out how flawed and selfish they are; Wiig’s ill-treatment of her husband (a puppy dog Luke Wilson), Hader’s dismissively judgemental overtones.
The Skeleton Twins is a far more emotionally complex and challenging watch than I had preconceived. I suspect many others will make a similar discovery. Upbeat battles downbeat throughout and in the end, they meet somewhere in the middle. All the while, Hader and Wiig are nothing short of sensational. 4/5