The Skeleton Twins review

Double trouble

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The Skeleton Twins has its fair share of heart-warming moments and more than its quota of laughs, but don’t expect a belly-busting comedy from SNL alumni Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader. This is a movie that starts with its male protagonist slitting his wrists in a bathtub and its female lead contemplating a jar of pills, and darkness hangs over the action like a storm cloud throughout.

Upon hearing of her estranged brother’s suicide attempt, Maggie (Wiig) invites Milo (Hader) back to his hometown to stay with her and her perennially sunny husband, Lance (Luke Wilson). Their chintzy home might look like a “Martha Stewart wonderland”, as Milo puts it, but it soon becomes clear that Maggie is not without her own issues: she takes birth-control pills while Lance thinks they’re trying for a baby, and regularly risks her marriage by cheating. Milo, meanwhile, is assaulted by bouts of depression, and re-sparks a complicated relationship from his youth with older man Rich (Ty Burrell), now a married man and doting father…

Initially a little too ‘Sundance-quirky’ for its own good (it won a screenwriting award at the festival) and concluding somewhat unsatisfactorily, The Skeleton Twins still gets a lot right, from its fractured sibling relationship to the disappointment that can ache within the picture-postcard existence we’re taught to strive for, to its presentation of mental illness. Wiig and Hader are excellent, their characters not so much hiding behind their dark humour as clinging to it to survive, and the intimate camerawork snuggles, sometimes insidiously, into these ordinary lives.

Like Jason Reitman’s Young Adult , this is a film cosy in scale but leaking pain, its bent-out-of-shape inhabitants performing stock takes on life. And with writer/director Craig Johnson resisting the easy path – the one usually lit by Eureka! lightbulbs and scored by redemptive fanfare – you can forgive him a few missteps.

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Editor-at-Large, Total Film

Jamie Graham is the Editor-at-Large of Total Film magazine. You'll likely find them around these parts reviewing the biggest films on the planet and speaking to some of the biggest stars in the business – that's just what Jamie does. Jamie has also written for outlets like SFX and the Sunday Times Culture, and appeared on podcasts exploring the wondrous worlds of occult and horror.