“I see you're getting your sense of humor back.”
The Skeleton Twins was a pleasant surprise which surpassed all my expectations. I wasn’t familiar with director Craig Johnson’s previos film (True Adolescents), and despite having seen Kristen Wiig in some strong dramatic roles before, I didn’t expect Bill Hader to be able to deliver one. I’m glad I finally got around watching this small indie drama because it is one of the best of the year. Despite covering some familiar territory, the chemistry between the two leads is what makes this film stand out. We’ve seen films focus on sibling relationships in the past, but I can’t remember the last time I saw one that felt so authentic as The Skeleton Twins. Their relationship is the core of the film and without strong performances from Hader and Wiig this could have been a disaster considering the material covers some dark subject matters (suicide, adultery, pedophilia) and the characters are flawed. It is hard to pull off an engaging performance when you are given a flawed character, but both Hader and Wiig deliver solid roles. Their off screen friendship was probably one of the reasons why these two hit it off so well in the film and you actually believed they were siblings. I usually tend to dislike depressive films, but The Skeleton Twins balances these depressing subject matters with some effective comedic moments. There is a perfect balance between the drama and the comedy which feels authentic and never manipulative. Without being overly explicit, the audience can assume that despite the fact that these two siblings have been estranged from each other, they are still very much connected. Their past continues to haunt them, but at the same time you know they belong with each other, and the only possible way to begin a healing process is by sticking together.
The dramatic scenes hit hard, but so does the comedy with some very memorable moments. There is a scene between the twins where the two lip-sync to an 80’s song that stands out. It is perhaps the greatest lip-syncing scene I’ve seen in the history of cinema. There are also many other memorable scenes, and the film is at its peak when it centers on the twins. All the highlights for me involved Wiig and Hader’s characters together: the dentist scene, the lip-synch scene, and the Halloween dress up scene. That doesn’t mean I didn’t like the subplots and supporting characters, but it just proves who strong Wiig and Hader were together. Haider gives the best performance of his career, and so far one of my favorites of the year. Luke Wilson and Ty Burell also deliver solid performances. Wilson’s character plays Wiig’s wife and he is perhaps the most likable character in the film. He may not be the perfect fit for Wiig, but the film never tries to portray him in a negative light in order for the audience to sympathize more with Wiig’s character. That is what made this film feel authentic, the lead characters are broken and damaged people who are trying to heal as they reconnect with each other. This isn’t a feel good comedy, it goes to dark places at times so some audiences might be put off by the depressive tone of the film, but I found it perfectly balanced with some great comedic moments which helped me enjoy the film. Fans of the Sons of Anarchy series might also enjoy Robert Boyd Holbrook’s secondary role in this film. He doesn’t get much screen time, but he does play a key role which helps us understand some of Wiig’s conflicts. The Skeleton Twins might be too honest for some, but I did enjoy this film quite a bit, which was wonderfully written by Johnson and Mark Heyman (Black Swan). The film does have some unnecessary scenes (like the flashbacks and the forced ending), but it is still a solid film where Bill Hader gets to shine and prove he can play dramatic roles as well.