‘The Skeleton Twins’ wears two masks: tragedy and comedy

By Kate Joseph
Staff Writer

Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig are known for playing outlandish characters like Stefon, the erratic night club enthusiast, and Gilly, the devious school girl, during their run on “Saturday Night Live,” but in “The Skeleton Twins” the comedy duo shows they have a dark side.

The film premiered in January at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, where it won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award for Drama, but opened in wide release in the U.S. on Sept. 12.

Hader and Wiig cut right to the chase in the first scene where both characters, estranged siblings Milo and Maggie, attempt suicide. Milo winds up in the hospital and in turn Maggie receives a call about her brother’s condition moments before swallowing a handful of pills.

In hopes to keep him safe from himself, Maggie invites her brother to come stay with her and her constantly gleeful husband (Luke Wilson) in the sleepy town in New York where they grew up.

Despite not having seen each other in ten years, as the siblings spend more time together they begin to fall back into old routines, sharing their deepest secrets, remembering their father, and lip-syncing to Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.” Milo also gets involved with an old flame (Ty Burrell) with whom he shares a controversial past.

Hader’s character is gay, but he’s not a distinctly gay character. That aspect of Milo is subtle and enhances the film without being used as a device to gain laughs. With this, Hader is believable without being offensive.

Though the subject matter of the film is serious and emotional, Hader and Wiig bring their own brand of dark humor that is guaranteed to elicit laughs. Audiences will find humor in assumingly dreary moments, like the reveal of Milo’s suicide note. Even when they make several self-destructive mistakes, it’s difficult not to root for the unstable duo.

“The tone of the movie was just really, really a hard tone to achieve,” Hader told the Huffington Post. “[Director Craig Johnson] and Jenny, the editor, did an amazing job, I think, because they’re very disciplined. Because there was tons of stuff that we did that was really, really funny, and some things that were incredibly bleak and even more hard to watch than that are in the film, and Craig was disciplined enough to say, ‘This is what’s right for the movie.’”

Wiig echoed Hader’s thoughts with the conviction that the film reflects real life.

“It’s just so interesting that people say it is kind of a different tone,” said Wiig. “Because it doesn’t fall into total comedy or total drama, which is so funny, because that’s what life is: both. It’s just funny that we all watch these stories of people’s lives, and it’s not just all one thing.”

The Skeleton Twins is a must-see if you’re a fan of the SNL twosome, but worth seeing just for the impressively splendid combination of comedy and drama.

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