“That is bullshit. You’re my brother. And we’re supposed to be there for each other. And if you don’t get that by now, then, I don’t know, I guess I’ll talk to you in another ten years.”
One of last year’s festival darlings, everything that had me most excited about The Skeleton Twins were also the same things that had me most concerned about it. A little indie made for no money that got all he festival crowds talking. When that’s good, you get Reservoir Dogs. When it’s bad, you get Little Miss Sunshine. Two hilariously comedic actors taking on serious drama. When it’s good, you get Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting. When it’s bad, you get Robin Williams in Bicentennial Man. So, which side of the fence does The Skeleton Twins land on?
After writing a suicide note to “Whom it May Concern”, Milo (Bill Hader) wakes up in hospital to a visit from his sister Maggie (Kristin Wiig), Inseparable as kids, they’ve grown apart to the extent that they haven’t spoken in a decade. Wanting to reconnect, Maggie insists that Milo take a break from his life in LA as a struggling actor, to come stay with her in their native New York. Where he meets Lance (Luke Wilson), Maggie’s fiancé.
While Maggie has everything together on the surface, it’s not long before the cracks are revealed. She’s constantly taking classes and courses in indulgent hobbies like scuba diving and cooking, purely as a way to avoid time alone with Lance, while also lying to him about the birth control she’s secretly taking while he thinks they’re trying to start a family. Back in his home town, Milo has a few closet skeletons to face as well, mainly an old school teacher (Ty Burrell), who was also his first lover when he was coming to terms with his sexuality as a teenager.
The Skeleton Twins checks off more than few indie movie clichés. Suicide and general malaise. A character returning home or going back to some kind of life they see as beneath them. Characters constantly looking off into the distance with blank expressions. But there was one that really stood out to me here that I realised is always in this kind of movie and it kind of frustrates me. According to a movie like The Skelton Twins, if you’re happy, it also means you’re boring, or you have no real ambition, or you’re just plan dumb. Luke Wilson’s character is basically a joke from the first second he appears on screen, because he had the balls to commit the crime of being a nice guy, a great boyfriend and has found some level of contentment. The prick.
But in the end, The Skeleton Twins is one of those movies that proves certain formulas and clichés exist for a reason. When done well, they work. It’s emotional manipulations are obvious and expected, it’s story arc is more predictable than Haley’s Comet and it’s indie film preciousness borders on overbearing. But, Bill Hader is awesome. Kristin Wiig is awesome. Luke Wilson is awesome (I wish he made more movies). Ty Burrell is awesome. And the story manipulates your emotions in a way that’s comfortably familiar, not predictably boring.