The Skeleton Twins are Maggie and Milo, a sister and brother who lost their beloved father years ago and have a distant relationship with their mother. In their childhood and adolescence the twins were close, but eventually drifted apart. Milo (Bill Hader) went to live in Los Angeles to pursue an acting career; Maggie (Kristen Wiig) is living in a small town in upstate New York with her husband Lance (Luke Wilson).
Maggie and Milo coincidentally attempt suicide on the same day, fortunately not at exactly the same moment. Maggie eventually flies to LA and brings her brother back to the east coast to live with her and Lance. There is a feeling that she wants to keep an eye on her emotionally unstable sibling. He describes himself as a gay cliché. The pair haven’t been in contact for a decade and as the story unfolds it becomes clear that they need to re-establish their relationship in order to move forward. Maggie’s idyllic life with Luke turns out to be somewhat different beneath the surface. Milo makes contact with a teacher he had sex with years before. The nature of this connection is unclear as Milo was very young and the teacher Rich (Ty Burrell) says the incident and his behaviour were out of character.
Maggie and Milo slowly rebuild their bond. In their own ways, they keep the world at bay with their odd behaviour and secretive traits. Each understands the other, but their relationship is not completely truthful.
These ideas are indie-movie standard, yet they are executed well by director Craig Johnson. The screenplay, which won an award at Sundance, is from BLACK SWAN (2010) writer Mark Heyman. This is Johnson’s second feature. He credits Mark Duplass with a degree of its success. Indie guru Duplass starred in Johnson’s first picture, liked Heyman’s script and signed on as Executive Producer. Duplass pushed for getting a known cast rather than using unknowns. Casting director Avy Kaufman knew Hader and Wiig and getting them in the title roles proved a great coup for the picture. Wiig and Hader both had eight seasons on Saturday Night Live under their belt, had the rapport of working together frequently and their marketability brought in a larger audience than the movie could have expected if it remained purely an indie product.
Wiig and Hader are great in their roles. Although the script has as much drama as comedy, the laughs are in very safe hands. Both do a great deal with a look or a slightly offbeat line reading. Ty Burrell as the ethically dodgy ex-teacher is also good. Luke Wilson’s Lance is, from one angle, a garden-variety bro-dude, however he is also such a positive character that he is the most balanced off all of them. He tries to make Maggie happy, but his thought process is so different from hers.
THE SKELETON TWINS won’t blow your mind, but it will likely entertain with its solid performances. It runs for 1 hour and 28 minutes. It is playing in limited release in Australia. Note: Aussie audiences are likely to be annoyed at Boyd Holbrook’s attempt at an Australian accent in his role of a scuba instructor; the accent gets 2/10, the movie 6/10.