With movies like The Skeleton Twins, one hopes for something great but as the negativity in reviews crawled around the corner, I set my exceptions low. But how low can you go when you have comic veterans Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader on screen doing something out of their comfort zone? Apparently not low enough for The Skeleton Twins to shine.
Milo (Bill Hader) and Maggie (Kristen Wiig) are estranged twins who not only share the same birthday but also their tendencies towards depression. The movie starts off with Milo’s suicide attempt while we witness Maggie essentially thinking the same thing. This will maintain as a common theme among The Skeleton Twins that tackles a whole lot of serious issues during its 93 minute running time and that’s its first mistake.
I’ve stressed this multiple times while reviewing movies, the need to cram multiple problems in one movie is too overwhelming and will most likely fail. One or two is enough but depression, suicide, child molesting, a death of a parent, a problematic relationship with the other parent, marital problems and extensive cheating is way too much to handle. Sure, these problems are all essentially linked to depression and suicide but is there a need for it all?
With Nightcrawler and Whiplash representing the focused narrative I’ve started to love, The Skeleton Twins looks messy and too pretentious for my taste. It’s just too much to absorb and just when I start to enjoy the movie, it throws another thing in my face and I’m constantly reprogramming myself from one problem to another. Yes, it’s a matter of taste and I just happen to prefer a more minimalistic approach but it also suffers by not having enough focus on any of these issues. That, and I wasn’t very content with the comic moments in the movie as they over dominated and made The Skeleton Twins sibling issues feel unrealistic.
In other words, the main problem is that Wiig and Hader are too good! Their chemistry together reads strong and comfortable, they have multiple moments of bonding happening, which are amazing, and then the conflicts that they do have sadly feel show-like. Their back story never makes sense because their onscreen connection is too familiar and you would never in a million years think they have been apart for 10 years! This pairing, Wiig and Hader, in that sense is a blessing and a curse because they held the movie together while undermining the plot.
This is an interesting situation because while I do love both performances, I secretly wish The Skeleton Twins would have focused more on Milo’s character. Hader, probably best known for his flaming performance as Stefon, shines from the start and continues as much as he can until the end. All while Maggie’s problems are thrown into the mix, making it difficult to concentrate and allow us to really understand Milo. One is enough, I say and wonder how the movie could have worked when the focus would have stayed on Milo and Maggie’s sole purpose was to support, not to steal the spotlight.
What is the biggest shame of not having the emphasis on Milo, is the fairly minimal screen time of Rich. The older and questionable figure in Milo’s life is portrayed by Ty Burell and if given the opportunity, I’m certain Burell would have given an outstanding performance. But like I said, The Skeleton Twins is too busy focusing on so many other things, that the most interesting aspect of the movie is overshadowed. This of course is my opinion and my own personal agenda with The Skeleton Twins and I say this because I’m pretty sure many will actually like this movie. If not for the plot, then for all the nice performances by Wiig, Hader and Burell – all comedy actors taking on the drama genre like a boss.