Sundance 2014: Bill Hader & Kristen Wiig Make 'Skeleton Twins' a Hit
by Ethan Anderton
January 19, 2014
There are plenty of tropes in independent cinema that can make any film festival a trying experience from time to time. Broken and estranged families, suicide, coming-of-age, these are all familiar themes in films we've seen at the Sundance Film Festival time and time again. But sometimes the right assembly of talent and a great script can make these elements feel fresh again. The Skeleton Twins is one of those films with a superb blend of laugh out loud comedy, and heartbreaking drama. "Saturday Night Live" veterans Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader lead the film, and this is truly a revelation in each of their careers. Read on!
Wiig (Bridesmaids) and Hader (The To-Do List, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs) are an estranged brother and sister, Maggie and Milo, who haven't seen or spoken to each other in 10 years. But when Milo attempts to commit suicide, Maggie decides to bring him back home to live with her and fiance Lance (Luke Wilson). So we've scratched two of those three typical indie elements off the list, and they kick-off what becomes a bonding of brother and sister, each learning to grow up in their own way, accepting the the inevitable disappointment in all their lives, obviously sparked by the suicide of their father many years ago.
While Maggie and Milo were once inseparable as children, now they find themselves knowing barely anything about each other's lives. Wiig and Hader have a beautiful chemistry, undoubtedly fueled by their years spend together at "SNL" that not only makes their reconnection believable, but also heartwarming and full of charm. Each have their own secrets they confide in to each other, from Maggie's secret birth control while her fiance wants to have a child, to Milo's affair with a married older man (Ty Burrell) who engaged in a sexual relationship with him when he was just 15.
The supporting cast is just as integral to the film as Wiig and Hader. Seeing Hader's reactions to Wilson's enthusiastic morning greetings and words of motivation is priceless, and Wilson plays the role fantastically. Meanwhile, Burrell takes a more dramatic turn than we're used to seeing from the "Modern Family" star as he engages in a confusing follow-up with Milo upon his return home. Both stars make for great supporting performances that help Wiig and Hader pull of their spectacular dramatic and comedic dynamic with flying colors.
Big laughs result from an award worthy lip syncing of Starship's "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" by Hader and Wiig, but some powerful emotional punches come along the way too. It's fantastic to see both leads venture outside of the straight-up comedy genre, and deliver such genuine and resonating performances as siblings lost in life. Wiig has already become a leading lady of sorts, but if Hader doesn't start getting some bigger roles on the big screen, there's no justice in the world. Hader's performance as the gay Milo is authentic, substantial and never over-the-top.
While much of the story will be familiar to anyone who has watched plenty of independent film, Black Swan writer Mark Heyman, who co-wrote the script with director Craig Johnson, have crafted an irresistible, emotional film with some rollicking good humor. The Skeleton Twins is a triumph for Johnson's sophomore directing effort, and Wiig and Hader both prove that comedy isn't the only trick in their book.
Ethan's Sundance 2014 Rating: 8.5 out of 10
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