Craig Johnson and Mark Heyman have written one of the most intimate, exciting and compelling stories of the year – The Skeleton Twins; funny, sad, fresh and powerful. It features two of the best performances of the year from it’s leads, Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader as well as a great host of supporting characters from Luke Wilson, Ty Burrell and Boyd Holbrook. What The Skeleton Twins does both frankly and honestly is show the drama in the funny and the funny in sadness but also the fabulously astonishing space that happens in between.
Wiig and Hader, both famous for their stints on SNL haven’t necessarily thrown away all their funny bones, they just have had them upgraded in the most brilliant way. Imagine a film that begins with a fully grown man trying to commit suicide, whilst at the exact same time, his sister on the other side of the country is pretty much contemplating the same thing – irony in its most obvious. Well this is how The Skeleton Twins begins; Milo (Hader), a lonely gay man living in LA with hopes and dreams of finding the love of his life and making it big with his name in lights suddenly realises that probably is never going to happen but that realisation is too much for him to handle and he decides to end it all. His twin sister in New York, Maggie (Wiig) is home alone, except she has a beautiful house and a loving but slightly oblivious husband, Lance (Wilson) and yet she feels just as lonely and unfulfilled. She stands quietly shaking over the sink in her bathroom holding a handful of pills – surely this is it. But someone else had something else in mind, her phone rings and its the hospital alerting her of what has happened to her brother and that he is fine but should’t be alone.
Milo goes back with Maggie to her house and there they start a slow, unbalanced and slightly bitter work together towards figuring out what they are both missing in life. At first Milo is hateful and spiteful – he never asked to be saved and he never asked his sister to come and rescue him but soon they learn that they need each more than they ever realised. Amid the twists and turns, the secrets, lies and revelations that follow The Skeleton Twins is a striking family drama, which revels in heart wrenching emotions between siblings.
Put these emotion things aside for a moment because The Skeleton Twins is also one of the most hilarious films of the year – and what makes it better is that Johnson and Heyman have struck gold with a brilliant balance between the drama, the heart and the funny. Whether it’s accidentally revealing the end of Marley and Me (‘Does the dog die, oh my god, the dog dies…) or being the only gay guy in a bar on dyke night, getting high on gas in the dental chair or miming the entire lyrics with passion and soul to ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’, The Skeleton Twins is truly hysterical.
But what makes The Skeleton Twins so damn relatable, loveable and brilliant is finding the funny in the sadness. This brings the audience so much closer to the characters and the story itself; during one sequence in particular, Milo invites their mother, Judy (Joanna Gleason) over for dinner. Maggie’s first reaction is panic and ready to flee the situation but she sticks around. Their conversation is thinly veiled in hatred that she has for her mother, prodding and poking how her life is now and whether there was any other reasons she could visit. Judy speaks of retreats and tea leaves, crystals and happiness – her mantra is forgiveness and looking inside yourself and yet she can barely see the damage she has done to her own children. Yet, there are moments when this is laugh out loud and it leaves the audience wondering whether they really should be laughing at this and yet finding themselves relating to the characters and the action. This in turn makes watching The Skeleton Twins a wonderfully cathartic and important experience.
Finally, Hader and Wiig give two of the most standout performances of the year – their chemistry and clear love for one another shines throughout the film and as Milo and Maggie, they learn to love one another and realise they need each. Just because they are adults, doesn’t mean they have learnt how to survive; it is okay to be broken. Hader and Wiig bounce off of one another in a way that cements their double act, which makes this film standout above the rest.
Emotional, vital, hysterical and frankly unforgettable, The Skeleton Twins marks itself out for being a powerful experience for its audience and certainly one of the highlights of the year.