Review: The Skeleton Twins (Sundance 2014)
PLOT:Two estranged twins- Maggie (Kristen Wiig) and Milo (Bill Hader)- living on opposite sides of the country, are reunited when one ends up in the hospital following a drunken suicide attempt. Having not spoken in ten years, the two once again find themselves living under the same roof- in this case Maggie's home with her dim, but good-matured husband Lance (Luke Wilson) in upstate New York.
REVIEW:Director Craig Johnson's THE SKELETON TWINS offers stars Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig a strong change-of-pace from the broadly comic parts the two usually find themselves cast in. While not without a significant amount of humor, this Sundance entry allows them to stretch in ways neither has really had the chance to do until now, and the result is one of the festival's most charming and likable films.
Playing the titular twins- so named for their matching skeleton tattoos- Wiig and Hader use the chemistry they already had from working together for several years on Saturday Night Live, to make a convincing pair of siblings (they also played husband & wife in ADVENTURELAND) The two are alternately at each others throats or displaying a somewhat symbiotic relationship that makes each the only real comfort in the other's life, even if they feel judged for their failures.
Since exploding into big-screen stardom with BRIDESMAIDS, Kristen Wiig has tried to branch out by taking on a series of indie parts, and THE SKELETON TWINS is arguably her most-straightforward and serious part since her underrated turn in Drew Barrymore's WHIP IT. Of the twins, she's the one who seems to have it together, holding down a job as a dental hygienist, while seemingly in a happy marriage with the kind- if dense- Lance, played by Luke Wilson, who's pressuring her to start a family. Obviously, her life is not as picture-perfect as it seems, and Wiig is terrific at conveying the character's turmoil, suffering in silence as to not disappoint those that- she thinks- rely on her.
As good as Wiig is (and she's great), Bill Hader- who's never really had the chance to show what he can do on the big screen outside of smaller parts- is staggeringly good as Milo. A gay actor living in LA, and freshly broken up with his boyfriend, Hader takes what could have been a stereotypical part (subtly acknowledged in one of Hader's opening lines, where he calls himself a “gay cliché”) and makes it three-dimensional and universal. Hader's really phenomenal here, making Milo an incredibly likable character despite his own prickliness. While Wiig has to contend with an overbearing husband, Milo's got a troubled relationship of his own, using his time at his sister's home to reconnect with a closeted boyfriend (Ty Burrell from MODERN FAMILY) with whom he shares a troubled past.
Throughout, director Johnson (who also co-wrote the script) perfectly juggles the comic and dramatic aspects of the film, able to simultaneously make us laugh till it hurts with Hader and Wiig's instantly classic pantomime performance of Starship's eighties cheese ballad “Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now”, while pulling the rug out from under us with an unexpectedly tense moment in the very next scene. His direction is confident and assured, and by the time the ninety minute film runs its course you will have found yourself having run the full gamut of emotions, making it one of the most satisfying movies to have played the festival this year.
Given the appeal of the two stars, it's not a stretch to imagine this getting a fairly wide release relatively soon (with Lionsgate already having snapped up the rights). Hopefully the film is able to pull in the broad audience it deserves as both Wiig and Hader are good enough to merit some awards consideration. Neither of them has ever been better.