The Skeleton Twins (2014)

Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig in The Skeleton Twins (2014)Spectacular lip-synch scene aside, The Skeleton Twins is much lesser comedic than the presence of SNL alums Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader would lead you to believe. They play twin siblings, each possessing an air of superior condescension that barely conceals their crippling insecurity and depression. They’re re-united after Hader’s suicide attempt, and share a series of those conversations you have with someone you haven’t seen in a decade; late-night drunken conversations that breach many boundaries while leaving others firmly erected.

Director Craig Johnson opens the film with an orange plastic skeleton sinking to the bottom of a backyard pool, and the remainder of Skeleton Twins is overflowing with nautical images sodden with morbidity. It’s flooded – dripping – with nautical imagery (Okay, I’ll stop), whether deeply infused with death – dead goldfish strewn across a kitchen floor, arterial blood coiling in warm bathwater – or simply representative of poor decisions – married Wiig hooks up with her scuba diver instructor, who possesses an awful attempt at an Australian accent and an octopus tattoo, while Hader reconnects with his Moby Dick-obsessed high school English teacher (Ty Burrell). If you can avoid drowning beneath The Skeleton Twins’ watery symbolism, there’s a touching story below the surface.

3.5 stars

8 thoughts on “The Skeleton Twins (2014)

    • Thanks Alex. It’s a “dramedy” I guess, but I felt the emphasis landed more on the drama than the comedy; it’s certainly more interested in telling a dramatic story with some glints of humour than the other way around.

      Wiig is good in this, but Hader really impressed me (I don’t think I’ve seen him do non-comedy work before). He’s given some clunky lines – the screenplay has him reiterating that he’s gay every couple minutes, just in case the audience forgot – but does a fantastic job of inhabiting his character.

  1. I never know how to take the trailer. It looks like a drama, but then Bill Hader kind of seems like he’s doing a riff on his Stefon character from SNL. I’m still looking forward to it. Glad you enjoyed it.

    • I liked Hader a lot in this (which I wasn’t expecting). My knowledge of his Stefon character is entirely based on 2 minutes of a YouTube video I just saw then … I could take it as a riff on that character, but a pretty distant riff (again, based on my, uh, extensive knowledge of that character).

  2. Thanks for a short but piquant review that captures the movie so succinctly. I agree: more drama than comedy here. After watching the preview, I was expecting more of a dramedy, but – whoa! – this was a heavy movie to watch… I am always excited to see comedic actors like Hader take on more serious roles, and I was surprisingly moved by his performance. I still can’t wait to see Steve Carell in “Foxcatcher”… (My personal favorite of a comedic actor taking on a more dramatic role is Adam Sandler in PTA’s “Punch Drunk Love”.) Anyway, keep it up! I am always impressed by your reviews.

    • Thanks for the kind words! I agree on comedic actors taking on serious roles, and Hader was very good here. My personal favourite example of that is probably Carrey in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but there are so many good examples!

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