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Two Of A Different Kind: The Skeleton Twins

Updated on April 5, 2015

The Skeleton Twins tells the tale of estranged twins who reunite after one attempts suicide, and the other has considered it. Bill Hader plays Milo Dean, a waiter and struggling actor in Los Angeles who has decided to end his life following the end of a relationship he'd had with another man. His actions during his attempted suicide, however, prevent him from dying. His twin sister, Maggie (Kristen Wiig), gets a call from the hospital where Milo's been admitted as she's about to consider doing the same thing as Milo tried. She goes to California to see him, and convinces him to return with her to the New York community where they were raised, and she now works as a dental hygenist. Maggie also seems happily married to her small businessman husband, Lance (Luke Wilson), who welcomes Milo to their home and lets Milo work with him. Maggie and Lance talk about their plans to start a family, as well as their wish to have a belated honeymoon at a Pacific resort near a beach.

Maggie, though, keeps a lot of feelings to herself, and Milo comes to know that. He discovers she's secretly taking birth control pills, and hiding these pills from Lance. While she takes scuba diving lessons, she becomes involved with her instructor, Billy (Boyd Holbrook). Coming home also brings Milo back into dangerous territory following a chance encounter with Rich Levitt (Ty Burrell), a former high school teacher once intimate with a teenaged Milo, but that affair ended when Maggie reported it to the school. Rich is now married, running a book store, and father to a teenage son. A quick visit from the Deans' widowed mother, Judy (Joanna Gleason), shows how little time the corporate retreat organizer devoted to her home life. Their father had both indulged and dismissed the unusual way the twins behaved while he lived. Maggie's secrets soon become exposed, and leads her to make some serious decisions.

The Skeleton Twins comes from director and co-writer Craig Johnson. He carefully balances comedy and drama as the siblings, who have matching skeleton tattoos, try to make less of a mess of the lives they lead. In the opening sequence, Milo goes on a bender and cranks a favorite song full blast before he goes to his bathtub and quietly turns the tub water red. Johnson shows viewers that these siblings not only had a hard time given the indifferent and negative attitudes they faced, but they also lie to themselves and one another about the lives they lead. Milo and Maggie, though, seem to sense the problems that the other has, and provide some sort of comfort to each other. Johnson shows siblings who can have a good time, but hide their sorrows as best they can.

The Skeleton Twins gives some performers best known for comedy a chance to show respectable dramatic skill. Hader and Wiig worked together for many years on Saturday Night Live, and this movie gives them the opportunity to show they can do something other than generate laughs. Both of them face very serious issues in a time where they believe that they can't rely on others close to them. Neither Milo nor Maggie totally approves of the way the other conducts themselves, but their bond as twins remains strong, and show they are capable of being both supportive and critical in ways nobody else does for them. Wilson usually does light comedy, and he and Hader's characters have fun getting acquainted, and share the sadness when Lance learns he and Maggie don't necessarily share some future plans. Burrell has made a name for himself as a genial dad on Modern Family, but here he's solid as a dad content in his life until Milo returns and reignites old feelings.

The Skeleton Twins shows that the ties between these siblings cannot be broken, even when time and distance separate them for years. Milo and Maggie find they feel the same sorts of deep pains, pains that have grown almost impossible for them to bear. Yet, when they reunite, they start to look for the pain-free aspects that make their lives bearable. Their time back together makes them remember how much they care for one another. The Skeleton Twins shows that some bonds between siblings never change, no matter how hard they might try.

On a scale of zero to four stars, I give The Skeleton Twins three stars. Siblings to the bone.


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