The Skeleton Twins is a fitting title. The twins in the movie, played adorably by Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader (they look as convincing as twins as Tom Hulce does as Mozart, but never mind), can never do anything right, and in fact they step wrong so many times they must have one leg shorter than the other, so much so they’d be more remedial to society as corpses. Skeletons, to be more precise. It’s a bit of a crude joke.
See, their father committed suicide when they were both 14. He jumped off a bridge. Why? Who knows? Who cares? Maggie seems to think their soothsayer of a mother drove him mad. Maybe she did. She hasn’t changed much otherwise. Neither of my parents committed suicide; I don’t know what kind of effects such a tragedy can have on children. Can suicide be hereditary? The Skeleton Twins seems to think so — as we meet Maggie and Milo, they’re both about to take their own lives. The apples don’t fall far from the tree indeed.
Milo (Hader) is single, and gay. He lives alone, presumably having just broken up with a partner, in an apartment where its most valuable decoration is a small aquarium with overgrown goldfish. He’s moved out to L.A. to become an actor, but “it’s tough to be an actor without an agent”. No love, no career, only goldfish, he bleeds out in the tub.
Maggie (Wiig) is married, happily it would seem, to Lance, played by Luke Wilson as an overly jolly fellow who looks to be two eggs short of a full dozen. You could call him a retarded moron and he’d probably break out a new six pack to celebrate. They’re trying for a baby. Or are they? Why does Maggie hide contraceptive pills under bars of soap in the bathroom? And what is this fatal attraction she has for her scuba diving instructor, who resembles Aaron Paul dipped in a vat of Australian Accent?
Milo’s attempt draws Maggie to him; they haven’t spoken to each other in 10 years — odd, considering their affable relationship. She invites him to stay with her, which is a neat gesture. Lance, you can be sure, would be absolutely ecstatic if the twins had a family reunion in his house. Come on, no one is that nice, are they?
Then The Skeleton Twins becomes an exercise in demonstrating just how floofed* up these two people really are, punctuated by scenes of impassioned intimacy. There are subplots of Milo and his affair with his high school teacher (Ty Burrell), who could have been arrested for pedophilia had it not been for Maggie’s intervention, and of Maggie with her magnetic scuba hunk (Boyd Holbrook). Milo misses work, threatens to mess up a family, and a marriage. Maggie can’t stop diving into men’s pants. They make a good duo, but are cursed to remain apart. They are like those bombs that require a fuse to work; with them, the fuse is always lit.
I enjoyed The Skeleton Twins, but would have enjoyed it more if Maggie and Milo didn’t try so hard to screw things up, and tried even less to act so cute. Yes, the scenes where they make fart jokes and sing “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” are quite infectious, but they have an ingratiating underlining. Their better moments come when they get down and serious and share breaking secrets; they don’t seem to know why they are such floofups either, which makes them endlessly sympathetic.
Maggie and Milo hold the story, and they hold it well. Had the movie just been about them, it would have been somewhat great. But there are too many distractions, too many supporting players, all of whom are, ah-hem, skeletal in their dimensioning. I’ve talked about Lance. Rich, the pedophile, is not very interesting as a conflicted human being. The twins’ mother, played thanklessly by Joanna Gleason, slumps into a stereotype. And Maggie has a run-in with an old college friend, in a scene so obviously written by an American it casts a deep shadow over a story that was no doubt built to be global.
*Floofed: My mind’s quick substitute for the word my reviews cannot contain.
Best Moment | Any one of the twins’ heart-to-heart talks. Yes, I also enjoyed “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now”.
Worst Moment | The run-in with the old college friend. What an insipid scene.