The Skeleton Twins

The ties that bind

Sometimes when my daughters don’t understand why their sister needs to exist, I try to give various parental pep talks, with varying success (little to none, really). One of my standard answers is that they have a bond because, for better or for worse, they are the only two people in the whole world who know what it’s like to grow up with my wife and I as parents. They’re two of a kind.

While the twins don’t have a specific reason for losing touch for 10 years, they have been living parallel, unfulfilled lives.

That notion of a unique sibling bond plays out effectively in the movie The Skeleton Twins as twin brother and sister Maggie (Kristen Wiig) and Milo (Bill Hader) try awkwardly to hang on to each other when all else fails. And in their respective lives, things are definitely failing.

After a failed suicide attempt, Milo wakes up in the hospital to find Maggie at his bedside, marking the first time in a decade that the two have seen each other. After a couple of weak attempts at re-connecting, Maggie invites Milo to temporarily move from L.A. back to their hometown in New York, where she lives with her husband Lance (Luke Wilson). Milo eventually acquiesces, and the twins attempt to re-connect.

While the twins don’t have a specific reason for losing touch for 10 years, they have been living parallel, unfulfilled lives. And while they are in different places in their respective lives, they both share a sense of misery in living those lives. Milo moved to Hollywood to become an actor, to no avail, and is recently coming off a breakup with his partner. Maggie has settled down in their hometown, marrying Lance and talking about starting a family, while hiding her birth control pills in the bathroom underneath butterfly-shaped soaps.

The twins fake that they’re happy, and as they reveal secrets to each other, the viewers start to obtain insight on their lives growing up as well. Milo and Maggie toggle between just surviving/proving they’re better than their parents, and conceding that they can’t escape their parents or their own flaws. Their inherited damage and their self-inflicted pain simultaneously push them closer together while isolating themselves from everyone else.

As you can gather, this is not the feel-good movie of the fall, but it is one of those dramedies with a glimmer of hope. Both Saturday Night Live alumni, Wiig and Hader prove their dramatic capabilities throughout the movie in two great performances. Given their backgrounds, however, they are able to create their own comic relief when necessary. Hader especially shines as the struggling gay actor trying hard not to become a clichéd stereotype. His lip-syncing of Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” is alone worthy of Oscar consideration, and now ranks as my all-time favorite movie lip-syncing scene, surpassing Matthew Broderick’s parade-stealing scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Wilson is great at playing the likable milquetoast and Modern Family’s Ty Burrell also adds dramatic depth as the former high school English teacher who plays a significant role in the family’s past pain.

While the movie is difficult and depressing to watch at times, Hader and Wiig execute the script’s funny and tragic moments in excellent fashion. Their bond, both a blessing and a curse, is uniquely theirs, and that relationship ultimately translates into a compelling film.

3.5/4 stars. Rated R for language, some sexuality, use of laughing gas in the dentist’s office, and for bringing the band Starship back to life.