This is an interesting movie, as it features two of Saturday Night Live‘s biggest alums in the past few years but has them playing some incredibly serious material. I’m a sucker for these types of films though, like Stranger Than Fiction, Punch Drunk Love, and Little Miss Sunshine, where we see Steve Carell play a character very similar to what we see Hader do here.
The basic gist is that Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig star as brother and sister, who have spent about 10 years not really speaking to each other, after their father committed suicide. Hader opens the movie by attempting suicide himself and that’s when the hospital calls his estranged sister to come get him. The rest of the movie follows these two as they reconnect and discuss what’s transpired in the last ten years. Luke Wilson stars as Wiig’s husband, while Ty Burrell stars as a former high school teacher of the siblings.
Hader delivers not only the best performance of his career so far, but potentially the performance that will skyrocket him to a whole new level of fame. His tortured Milo is a complex and almost unlikeable character but Hader delivers subtle moments that show you how nuanced this character really is. When you hear that Milo is gay, your mind might go straight to Stefon, an outrageous character from Saturday Night Live, but these two characters couldn’t be more dissimilar.
And Wiig is a perfect complement, as these two already have years and years of history together. On one-hand, you believe the natural bond they have together, but you also believe that each of them has secrets that they’re embarrassed and scared to share with each other. Wiig has some stellar moments on her own as well, showing she’s got much more range than what we’ve seen before.
In terms of the bigger picture, The Skeleton Twins is a standard indie movie in structure. It hits moments that we’ve seen many times before but it pulls them off. This is only Craig Johnson’s second feature film so there’s nothing extremely unique here but it feels like a solid entry into the genre. It gives both of our leads moments to shine and this project will do them wonders, though the film itself may not set itself apart from the rest of the pack.
What doesn’t work?
Like I said, there’s nothing really unique about this film. Moments from Hader call back to Carrel’s performance in Little Miss Sunshine at times, but it’s the fact that Hader can reach these places… that’s what stands out.
Also the movie lacks closure and that might irritate mainstream audiences. Since this is a limited release and “indie”-tone film, there’s a little more flexibility here, as these audiences might be okay with a little less closure.
In a few years, when Bill Hader is winning awards, this will be the movie that launched his career out of strictly comedy. There’s great character work here by both Hader and Wiig in a story that may not be unique in this genre… but it does the job it’s meant to do. If you’re looking for something in the indie film genre and The Skeleton Twins happens to be playing near you, this is a solid choice.