The Skeleton Twins: Irresistibly Flawed

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Whenever I hear about a movie featuring Kristin Wiig I think of Bridesmaids and her irresistible humor. Hence the reason I make an effort to see her movies. How come it feels like she chooses films to be in rather than the other way around? Her humor doesn’t falter in Skeleton Twins—but there’s a twist and it’s an absolute treat: Wiig’s character has a dark, strange humor, but a sad and serious side that reveals the film’s maturity as well as her own.

And Wiig’s not the only one who gives a new performance. Bill Hader plays her gay twin brother Milo, who at first seems like a total downer. His negativity eats up the scenes at first, but he slowly puts a positive twist in his sister Maggie’s life. The duo is also off balance at first. The siblings haven’t seen each other in ten years and what they used to have in common or what connected them in the first place is lost. There’s a shot sequence in the beginning of the film that reveals this humor, and at the same time the depressing realization that this family has grown so far apart. After Milo’s suicide attempt Maggie tries to comfort her brother who lies in the hospital bed, but even her touch seems cold because she doesn’t know what he’s been through. The next shot she does the same by convincing him to stay with her for a while. Milo uses his quick sarcasm to make his sister feel uncomfortable and also to remind her they have years of catching up to do. But like all of us who have the blessing of experiencing special sibling bondage, they are fused together once more. After all, we can’t choose our family and Milo and Maggie come to terms with this again and again—making the most interesting and entertaining film companionship I’ve seen in awhile.

What we can’t understand throughout the film is Maggie’s pure unhappiness, until her mother comes along and we get an inside look at the selfish actions that have haunted the family. However, Maggie also has positive reinforcements in her life that you think would make this human change, appreciate, and move on from her past. Her enthusiastic husband Lance (Luke Wilson) like Maggie says more than once is extremely kind, patient, understanding. The definition of love. Except the feelings are not reciprocated, even if she tries and pretends. This situation is frustrating, but Milo puts it so simply during the film’s climax that makes the most sense it is going to ever make when he tells her, “Maybe good isn’t your thing.” And these are the simple perspectives that make the story so compelling: we are hard wired the way we are and there’s nothing we can do about it. We can choose to suffer in self-denial like both Maggie and Milo or we can face the truths that hide in these dark places and finally accept our flawed fibers.

The gaze the film projects on the siblings is not judgment either. The strange moments they share are both hilarious and heartfelt and show an enchanting yet raw relationship. There is a special humanity in this film: the featured lives are nowhere near perfect but the issues are realistic. And I also enjoyed the creative motifs represented throughout that prove this unbreakable connection. The movie opens with Maggie underwater in a pool as a child and the same is seen when she’s older, but her motives in the water this time are different. Milo is present in both scenes—Maggie’s constant even through the depths of her sadness. For Milo, he holds onto tokens that represent the love he cherishes and needs. He gets rid of some. A plastic whale that represents Moby Dick but others like a skeleton keychain he keeps forever. Just like the relationship with his twin sister that’s more than rocky at times: it’s there, twisted, comforting and permanent.

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2 comments

  1. Good review. I liked the film a lot. It served up a very interesting tone battling between up and downbeat. Casting such likeable actors as deeply flawed, often selfish people was a nice piece of reverse psychology.

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