Wednesday, 24 September 2014
FILM REVIEW: THE SKELETON TWINS
While the bond between siblings is a strong yet complicated one -- often as competitive and antagonistic as loving and supportive -- the connection between twins is believed to be even stronger and more keenly felt. That may explain why Milo (Bill Hader) and Maggie (Kristen Wiig) decide to take their own lives on the same day.
Estranged for ten years and living on opposite sides of the country -- Milo in L.A. where he headed with dreams of becoming a famous actor; Maggie in the outer suburbs of New York and close the home where they grew up -- Maggie gets the call that her brother Milo slipped into the bath and then slit his wrists just as she's contemplating swallowing a handful of pills.
It's a less than hilarious opening to writer-director Craig Johnson's The Skeleton Twins (co-written with Mark Heyman) which is a comedy. Make that a dramedy, for there are a closet full of secrets, revelations and pent-up emotions which prevent the laughs from coming thick and fast. It also allows the former Saturday Night Live alums to exercise their dramatic chops while not necessarily moving too far out of their comfort zones.
Milo returns to New York with Maggie, where she works as a dental hygienist and lives with her husband, Lance (Luke Wilson), a good guy with a positive attitude which grates as much as it endears. That endearing quality hasn't yet convinced Maggie that she and Lance should have children, even though they are trying (well, Lance is; Maggie's popping birth controls pills on the sly).
This fear of a deeper commitment sees Maggie taking up a new challenge every few months -- currently scuba diving -- and hooking-up with fellow classmates; this time round the hunky Aussie scuba instructor (Boyd Holbrook) fits the bill. Milo, on the other hand, sees his return to his home town as a means of reconnecting with his former high school English teacher (Ty Burrell), whose interest in his pupil are revealed to have been less than scholarly.
Predictably all of these secrets and lies will be brought out into the light, calling for more than one emotion-charged showdown between the siblings. But it's not all gloom: the twins sharing the occasional light-hearted moment, whether induced by nitrous oxide or the power ballad strains of Starship.
And Hader and Wiig work well together. They may not possess a familial appearance but their chemistry is one of a shared history; of intimacies earned, long held and deeply felt. The reason for their estrangement is eventually revealed, proving once again that we often hurt those we love the most even when we think we're acting in their best interests, or not thinking at all.
There's also a not-too-subtle suggestion in the screenplay that children are the collateral damage of their parents; left shell-shocked or completely obliterated by their upbringing and the examples set. Of course, at a certain point you have to stop blaming others and take responsibility for your own life. Sometimes that means sucking it up, rolling with the punches and moving forward; other times that may mean checking out early.
The Skeleton Twins doesn't judge Maggie or Milo for their choices but in choosing life, it ends on a hopeful note.