The Skeleton Twins, now playing at the Belcourt, does what so many productions aspire to: it captures the tender, difficult love of siblings without veering into hackneyed territory. Here’s the skeleton plot: Twins Milo (Bill Hader) and Maggie (Kristen Wiig) haven’t communicated in ten years and are both just barely holding on to any semblance of a will to live. One of them loses it before the other, and they’re reunited in their hometown, where Maggie lives with her bro husband Lance (played hilariously by Luke Wilson). They revisit old issues, as siblings are wont to do, but withhold the crazy explosive episodes until they’re earned, and the details of their pasts are revealed incrementally but naturally. Maggie is living what looks to be the perfect life: a hardworking, doting husband, a beautiful house, a steady job, time to pursue scuba diving and french cooking classes, and they’re trying to have a baby. But off the bat, we know she’s unhappy, and the sudden presence of her falling-apart brother seems to push her into confrontation with the person she loathes the most: herself.
The action of the film is punctuated by silent flashbacks of the twins as children (Maggie putting lipstick on Milo, Maggie holding her breath under water). These feel a tiny bit ham fisted in the end, but overall, they’re done elegantly and serve to remind us of how simple relationships are when we’re kids, before we begin to, as Maggie says, walk through life trying not to be disappointed. Sound familiar? Written by Craig Johnson in what looks like his breakout script, the dialogue is by turns wry and moving, but always surprising.
For me, the film is a candid study of siblings. Maggie and Milo have decades of blame and resentment damming them up, but there’s also a desperate desire to be understood and recognized by the other. They’re so equally flawed and equally unwilling to own up to their shit that I didn’t want to take sides. I was pulling for both of them, and maybe it’s because Hader and Wiig complement each other so well. The former SNL costars are neck-to-neck in ability, pulling off a solidly wonderful joint performance. Perhaps only these two can enact a dramatic lip synching of “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” that manages to be corny only in that it’s hilarious and touching and perfect.
Check out this quick interview with them from Rotten Tomatoes. Then get to the next showing.