the skeleton twins

With movies like The Skeleton Twins, one hopes for something great but as the negativity in reviews crawled around the corner, I set my exceptions low. But how low can you go when you have comic veterans Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader on screen doing something out of their comfort zone? Apparently not low enough for The Skeleton Twins to shine.

Milo (Bill Hader) and Maggie (Kristen Wiig) are estranged twins who not only share the same birthday but also their tendencies towards depression. The movie starts off with Milo’s suicide attempt while we witness Maggie essentially thinking the same thing. This will maintain as a common theme among The Skeleton Twins that tackles a whole lot of serious issues during its 93 minute running time and that’s its first mistake.

I’ve stressed this multiple times while reviewing movies, the need to cram multiple problems in one movie is too overwhelming and will most likely fail. One or two is enough but depression, suicide, child molesting, a death of a parent, a problematic relationship with the other parent, marital problems and extensive cheating is way too much to handle. Sure, these problems are all essentially linked to depression and suicide but is there a need for it all?

With Nightcrawler and Whiplash representing the focused narrative I’ve started to love, The Skeleton Twins looks messy and too pretentious for my taste. It’s just too much to absorb and just when I start to enjoy the movie, it throws another thing in my face and I’m constantly reprogramming myself from one problem to another. Yes, it’s a matter of taste and I just happen to prefer a more minimalistic approach but it also suffers by not having enough focus on any of these issues. That, and I wasn’t very content with the comic moments in the movie as they over dominated and made The Skeleton Twins sibling issues feel unrealistic.

the skeleton twins ty burell

In other words, the main problem is that Wiig and Hader are too good! Their chemistry together reads strong and comfortable, they have multiple moments of bonding happening, which are amazing,  and then the conflicts that they do have sadly feel show-like. Their back story never makes sense because their onscreen connection is too familiar and you would never in a million years think they have been apart for 10 years! This pairing, Wiig and Hader, in that sense is a blessing and a curse because they held the movie together while undermining the plot.

This is an interesting situation because while I do love both performances, I secretly wish The Skeleton Twins would have focused more on Milo’s character. Hader, probably best known for his flaming performance as Stefon, shines from the start and continues as much as he can until the end. All while Maggie’s problems are thrown into the mix, making it difficult to concentrate and allow us to really understand Milo. One is enough, I say and wonder how the movie could have worked when the focus would have stayed on Milo and Maggie’s sole purpose was to support, not to steal the spotlight.

What is the biggest shame of not having the emphasis on Milo, is the fairly minimal screen time of Rich. The older and questionable figure in Milo’s life is portrayed by Ty Burell and if given the opportunity, I’m certain Burell would have given an outstanding performance. But like I said, The Skeleton Twins is too busy focusing on so many other things, that the most interesting aspect of the movie is overshadowed. This of course is my opinion and my own personal agenda with The Skeleton Twins and I say this because I’m pretty sure many will actually like this movie. If not for the plot, then for all the nice performances by Wiig, Hader and Burell – all comedy actors taking on the drama genre like a boss.


  • Huh, I hadn’t even heard of this film. I think it’s great they try to put so many problems into it — because depression cares fuck all if you have a job or a family or other tragedies in life or any other responsibilities, it comes and ruins your life anyway. But I do understand how it is extremely difficult to make a film that handles all this to be good. Those challenges, of accurately depicting depression + a million other things that affect or are affected by it, fit so much better into TV than film. So it’s sad to hear it’s not a good film and that it has too much crammed into it! But hey, at least your review’s great!

    • Now that’s the thing, I like minimalistic things and the ease of the story. While Milo’s background was good enough for a movie, I felt like Maggie’s was unfinished and messy and just .. I don’t know, it’s a personal thing. But, for instance, Drinking Buddies.. a very easy, simple, not too fussy – amazing! So I think yes, I prefer less fussy indie films.

      Thanks for what seems to be the longest comment ever! 😀

      • Is it long? 😀 I haven’t commented for so long that I’m a bit confused haha. I’m beginning to be very interested about how this film plays out… oh ohh. But I guess it’s good to see bad films too sometimes, right? 😀

        • I’ve loved so many movies these past few months that I thought I was broken or something… so I guess it’s nice to pull yourself out of the praising and into criticism just because it is a whole other way of writing.

  • I quite enjoyed this film, actually. Along with Jenny Slate in Obvious Child, Wiig and Hader shed their SNL personas- for the most part- and turn in some pretty good performances. I liked their chemistry and how the suffering that the two endured ended up bringing them back together. As flawed as they are and how they push others away- I mean, poor Luke Wilson. The guy deserved much better- they complete one another. I could buy them being apart for so long, yet once they reunite, it’s like things never changed, but they realized that neither of them achieved the lives they wanted in their youth. One of my favorites of the year, easily. Packed audience when I saw it in the cinema a few months ago.

    • Now Obvious Child I adored and it’s a shame really that I couldn’t love The Skeleton Twins as mush as you do. I appreciate the comment and I understand completely, it’s just that for me the simplified version of the story could have been a lot stronger, especially with the performances these two could be capable of.

      • I will say this about the story. And since you’ve seen it, this wouldn’t really be a spoiler. I don’t think it went as dark as it could have toward the ending. The film looked like it wanted to have a happy ending, so Milo happened to show up near the end to save Maggie from drowning herself. I think, if the film wanted to have a more bleak and maybe even more realistic ending, the writers would have let her drown. But then, maybe the writers felt that would have been too much of a downer. But that sort of bleakness is what makes me appreciate programs like The Leftovers, The Walking Dead, and Game of Thrones.

        • True but now imagine having the plot focus more on Milo throughout, and then finishing it all with Maggie’s death because with depression you would never really know, and as a viewer, we would have been shocked to our core with that kind of development. The unexpectedness to it all, the fact that we might not even notice these things..

  • I like what you said about a focused narrative, and although I haven’t seen this, it sounds like it did cram WAY too much in here. I too was uber excited when I saw the names attached to this film, but the immediate negative surge deterred me from seeing it 🙁

    • I have heard good things too though, so I recommend trying it out for yourself. The performances, like I said, are worth it to some extent and you can’t miss seeing Hader in a dress, that’s just priceless!

  • I really want to see this one, but your review has me a tad…afraid? I’ve heard mixed things, but most simply praise the performances. Now I’m worried that it is only the performances worthy of note, which can make for an empty film experience.

    • I heard bad things too but I still watched it.. because I never really understand not watching something that some say bad things about, since everybody has different opinions. Sure, I disliked the plot but it was because there was too much, but maybe you’ll like it because of it.. So, I say, give it a try, if you don’t like it, then at least you know!

  • It’s interesting to see both Hader and Wiig tackle these dramatic roles and do so well with them. Has me looking forward to the future. Good review Ray.

    • I like their roles, I just.. the more I think about it, the more I wanna change the movie and it’s weird because I’ve never experienced such feeling. Thanks for the comment!

  • This is actually the first somewhat negative review for this that I read, I’m watching it later tonight so I wonder what I’ll make of it 🙂

    • I can’t recall where I stumbled on a negative one but I remember reading a couple before I watched it.
      Pretty sure you might enjoy it though, people have commented that they liked it so I might be the grumpy one this time. 😀

  • Wiig and Hader were very good indeed, it felt believable that they were once close and that even 10 years apart didn’t change that. I do agree that they kept throwing in new issues which became a bit too much. As a whole the movie was ok.

  • Good review. I think I liked the film more than you. though, and I didn’t find the dramatic focus in any way problematic. It also highlights just how adept comedy actors can be when it comes to tackling meaty dramatic roles. Wiig and Hader were absolutely superb.

    • I’ve heard good things said about it as well and it’s totally okay. I’m not in any position to state that other can’t like it. And I do appreciate the performances, they were pretty darn good.

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