Review: “The Skeleton Twins” 12.13.14

I guess I wasn’t entirely sure what drew me into wanting to see this film. Other than that I had heard and/or read mostly positively priases and it scored well on the various movie review sites that I visit. That and coming off the heels of two dark films that I watched last weekend in the form of both “Calvary” and especially “Nightcrawler” I think I was in the mood for a bit more lighter-fare. But even more so, I’ve particularly always been a fan of Bill Hader and often feel as if he’s much too underutilized in films and mostly plays bit parts. So the promise of seeing him in something where he played the leading man in piqued my interest from the start. Being in that I’m really a Saturday Night Live novice post anything 2000, I can’t say that I’m familiar at all of any of his work on that show. Along with co-star Kristen Wiig. I know neither of them from their work on that show, but rather from supporting parts in movies I’ve seen like 2011’s “Paul”, a movie in which both of them starred in. I also liked Hader in comedies like “Superbad” (2007), “Knocked Up” (2007), “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” (2008), “Pineapple Express” (2008), “Adventureland” (2009), and “This Is 40” (2012). Also, a lot of people don’t know this, but Hader was employed as one of South Park’s head writers for a couple of seasons. There’s a great “making of” South Park documentary that I caught on Netflix streaming awhile back. That shows Hader in his element as they give us a glimpse into the writing and making of a South Park episode. Creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, regardless of what you think about their show, are so unbelievably successful that they can pull in guys like Hader to write for them. And it’s through this documentary that I found myself developing a deeper respect for him as both an actor and writer. His sheer talent is undeniable. As for Wiig, I can’t say I’ve really seen her in anything outside of the afore-mentioned “Paul” (no I have not seen “Bridesmaids”) and in her hilarious supporting turn in the often much too underrated “MacGruber” (2010). So just based on word of mouth and the fact that I was looking for some lighter fare with a couple of young comedic actors I thought I would give this one a whirl.

The film opens to a rather coincidental and tragic event, both which take place on opposite coasts by 2 siblings – Bill Hader’s Lou and Kristen Wiig’s Maggie. It is through this mere act that the brother and sister are reunited after 10 long years of being estranged from one another. Lou, who seems to be in a very dark place and in desperate need of some much-needed love and support, gets an invitation by his sister Maggie to come stay with her and her husband (played by Luke Wilson, in a great supporting turn) in rural upstate New York. he takes her up on said offer and moves from his dismal life in Los Angeles to her much more suburban-esque home and lifestyle in upstate New York. As is with a lot of siblings, both on-screen and off, they seem to click almost right away and pick up right from where the beat left off. Lou hesitantly acclimates himself and is brought into both his sister and husband’s seemingly domestic home life, and given that she still lives in the same hometown in which they grew up on, starts to revisit some of his past. Facing past failures upfront and face to face, and we begin to learn a bit about his back story. Though while Maggie’s lifestyle seems to be idyllic from the outside. She too is also plagued with her own past failures and her inability to be the wife that her husband, Luke Wilson’s character, appears to deserve as he is a kind-hearted, compassionate, and loving husband. Who also seems invested in his brother-in-law Lou’s recovery from some of his past failures. The two siblings begin to learn that they’re really not much different from one another and are plagued by the same events that happened to them as kids, which makes things rather difficult and opens up doors to facing some of their let downs and disappointments from their childhood. It is through this bonding which things begin to resurface and they begin to realize that they’re not much different than one another. Even despite of them having spent so much time apart.

“The Skeleton Twins” winds up being one of the biggest sleeper hits of the year in terms of its genre. It’s a very sad but honest look at two siblings so troubled and scarred from their childhood that even while in the comfort of one another’s presence, their past seems to catch up with them and makes them face their true fears and disappointments about the flawed adults in which they’ve become. The film brough a lot of my own personal feelings to light, having lived a similar, somewhat tumultuous childhood. The way in which the two siblings’ bond is portrayed is spot on and both Hader and Wiig give complex, layered performances that felt sincere, real, and truly human. It just goes to show that two actors who are better known for their comedic work in, if given the right material, can truly shine as dramatic actors. In fact, I was so impressed by their performances, that I found myself totally immersed myself in the story and emotionally invested in their 2 characters, that I was taken by quite a surprise. There was a certain rawness, a certain authenticity if you will, that I have to say I didn’t think these particular leads could pull off. But they do and then some. Anybody with a sibling or siblings should be able to identify with a lot of the themes explored in this film. As it really does a great job at depicting the ties that bind while also acknowledging that the past may be through with us, but we are never through with the past (a quote lifted from Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Magnolia” (1999) ). There’s an emotional core to the story that seemed totally believable and had me invested from start to finish. Nevermind that I counted maybe 3 or more scenes that were so raw, so poignant, and so heartfelt, that I found myself either being completely moved by them or evoking a beaming smile. This is one of the saddest feel good movies that is executed almost perfectly along with being incredibly well acted, that I’d be hard pressed not being able to recommend it to just about anybody. This is a film that totally took me by surprise, and one that I would employ you to see as its maybe one of, if not the best, dark comedies that I’ve seen all year.

[B+]

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3 thoughts on “Review: “The Skeleton Twins” 12.13.14

  1. I liked the 3 main actors a lot.
    My fav character was Maggie’s husband, Lance; Luke Wilson was great as an always positive, cheerful, simple dude.
    There were plenty of witty, sharp, & somewhat heat warming scenes in TheSkeletonTwins, but I didn’t really love it.
    Probably cause I didn’t really love 2 out of the 3 main story lines.. The 1st feeling forced, nothing new-
    Bill Hader/Milo with his old teacher – the Dad from Modern Family. Thought they both acted their parts very, very well, but felt like the storyline was kind of cliché – student/teacher affair & someone determined not to ‘come out’ publically & who ultimately doesn’t really care about the gay guy he’s banging on the side.

    The 2nd subplot I wasn’t so much a fan of either. Kristen Wiig/Maggie with her secret affairs as her husband thinks they’re both on the same page, looking forward to getting pregnant (I prob wasn’t a fan of this storyline more for personal reasons).

    With that said, the sibling relationship scenes felt very genuine – combined with there were lots of lil’ laughs like the scene when Kristen Wiig is scarfing down ice cream while procrastinating taking a pregnancy test & she runs into an old peer from high school; stuff like when the son gives the Mom the middle finger & the Mom then gives her son the middle finger right back made me laugh & made it a good entertaining comedy/dramedy.
    80.. “B-“
    Bill Hader was really good as the main actor. He’s an ugly looking dude. He is funny as shit in Sat.NightLive & I always like him in his minor roles too like in ForgettingSarahMarshall as Jason Segel’s bro

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  2. Interesting. You have a lot to say about the film so it seems like you found it to be a decent enough watch.

    I can see where you’re coming from on your second comment about that part of the storyline to hit a little too close to home in terms of what you’ve experienced in your own marriage. The craziest thing about it is the thought never even crossed my mind in regards to that. Maybe because I subconsciously remembered you liking “Gone Girl” so much even despite of the Rosamund Pike character’s similiarities with that of your ex.

    As for the relationship between Hader and his high school teacher I’m going to have to both agree and disagree with you. What I’m going to agree with is your observation of that seeming almost cliche or contrived. But here’s the catch – where I give that storyline credit is in that it keeps you guessing for the first third of the film what that relationship was all about. The first time Hader enters the bookstore and is shooed away I was like “what the hell’s going on here”? Almost as if I knew it was probably a former lover gone bad but could have never guessed that it was because of the situation that is revealed about their past relationship later in the film in the car scene. I actually thought that came as kind of a shock and was quite revelatory. So in that respect I thought that storyline fit the film well. As it gave some backstory into Hader’s suicidal and depressive state.

    I also agree with your comments on all of the acting being top notch. And yes – great to see Luke Wilson back in a role where he’s such a likeable character. I feel like he plays those easy-going, zen-like, chill guys perfect and its been awhile since I had seen him in anything.

    I do like the scene you mentioned in the diner where Hiig’s character is eating ice cream and runs into a former classmate. However I think easily the best scene is where Hader is trying to cheer Wiig up by putting on that 80’s tune “we can build ourselves together, nothing’s gonna stop us now”. I’m not even joking in formulating my “top 10″/Best Of Year list I almost wanted to create a “Best Scene of the Year” category and put that as my favorite scene in any movie all year. It captures a certain spirit and energy and puts both of the 2 leads comedic talents on display and I just find it so touching, funny, and heartwarming. So much so that I have a YouTube clip of it saved and have watched it probably 25 times since seeing the film.

    Lastly, since you usually grade films about 5+ points or more less than I do this seems like something you mostly liked. Like your 80 is usually my 85. So I’m glad I encouraged you to watch it and you took me up on the offer because despite some of your criticisms it sound like it was something that you thought was worthwhile.

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  3. Oh yea, I definitely enjoyed The Skeleton Twins quite a bit & think it’s worth renting/checking out.

    For sleeper hits on the year, I’d put Obvious Child & Begin Again ahead of this.

    I like that idea, your “Best Scene of the Year” list.. I’d nominate the scene in the first half of “Kid Cannabis” where the 2 main characters roll up to crash a costume party – Topher smooth as hell with the ladies & funny as shit with his marijuana leaf air freshener tag dangling from the brim of his baseball hat saying that he’s a “Leaf Blower” next his best bud & polar opposite character, a very fat & unsmooth Nate, with his costume “a movie theater floor”

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