The Skeleton Twins

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Robin Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Robin Clifford 
The Skeleton Twins
Laura Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Laura Clifford 

Twins Maggie (Kristen Wiig) and Milo (Bill Hader) have been estranged for 10 long years. When they both cheat the Reeper on the same day, they realize that the must bury the hatchet and come together again to straighten out the lives of “The Skeleton Twins.”

Robin:
Robin's review will be published on opening day, 9/12/2014.

Laura:
Their Halloween fixated dad called them the gruesome twosome, but now, long after his suicide, Maggie (Kristen Wiig, "Bridesmaids") and Milo Dean (Bill Hader, "Superbad") not only live on opposite coasts, they haven't spoken in ten years.  As she clutches a handful of pills, Maggie gets a phone call from the hospital where her twin is recovering from his realized suicide attempt. Maggie flies out and brings him back to their upstate New York home where she lives with gregarious husband Lance (Luke Wilson, "Legally Blonde").  The two quickly fall into their humorously warped routine together, but each needs to open up about hidden anguish and their methods for helping each other move forward will almost prove the undoing of "The Skeleton Twins."

Cowriters Mark Heyman ("Black Swan") and director Craig Johnson ("True Adolescents") won the 2014 Waldo Salt Screenwriting award at Sundance for this work which features relatable brother/sister hilarity but an obvious plot structure which goes exactly where one expects.  There's also a climatic bit of good fortune which strains credulity. What makes this film work are the performances of former SNL colleagues Hader and Wiig, whose natural bond through good times and bad is one of the best depictions of siblings on screen since "You Can Count On Me," a film which this one bears more than a little resemblance to.

Gallows humor comes naturally to kids gifted with skeletons on a string by their masked dad, first seen in Milo's suicide note ('To whom it may concern - see ya later :-)').  Milo's surprised by his sister's 'Martha Stewart' lifestyle and her good-natured frat boy husband.  When Lance announces 'we're trying to get pregnant' at dinner, Milo says he'd be pleased to be the 'creepy gay uncle,' but questions Maggie's change of heart.  But there are a whole lot of skeletons yet to tumble out of the closet.

The first thing Milo does the next day is take a walk through the town center, stopping in to visit bookstore owner Rich (Ty Burrell, TV's 'Modern Family'), who's obviously badly flustered by his appearance.  It's easy to intuit why, but there's even more to come out about Milo's renewed affair with his high school English teacher, which he lies about to Maggie. He also neglects to tell her their mom Judy (Joanna Gleason, "Last Vegas") is in town and when she stops by for dinner, Maggie cannot keep her deep seated rage at the new ager who's moved on to a new family under wraps.

Maggie, in turn, is seen taking hidden birth control pills and succumbing to the flirtations of her SCUBA instructor Billy (Boyd Holbrook, "Milk").  A little nitrous at her dental office and Maggie's woes come spilling out to Milo, but just as the two really embrace their past relationship on Halloween night, out comes the reason for its decade long distance.

Wiig is quite good as a troubled woman trying to represent one thing while living a secret shame, but it's Hader who really wows here as a failed actor and gay man who's never gotten over the man who first seduced him.  The actor conveys his homosexuality with precise posture and the artfully draped scarf he occasionally worries.  He and Wiig gradually melt into one another, culminating with a karaoke 'Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now' duet which reveals how perfectly in sync the siblings are.  Luke Wilson is also terrific in what is essentially the third wheel role.  He's a good guy, heartily accepting of his brother-in-law.  A scene in which Lance tries to get Milo working clearing a hiking path conveys the utmost in patience, Wilson's in check astonishment at Milo's unfitfulness for the task is generous towards Hader, adding a background grace note to the center stage comedy.

Grade:  B
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