The Skeleton Twins review – depressingly bleak drama

The Skeleton Twins is hard to watch drama

Despite revelatory performances from its two leads, The Skeleton Twins is a pretty miserable movie that will leave you wondering why you subjected yourself to such a downer.

You get the sense of the tone right away as Milo (Bill Hader, The To-Do List) slashes his wrist in a suicide attempt while his estranged twin sister, Maggie (Kristen Wiig, Despicable Me 2), is moments away from overdosing when she gets the call about Milo. To help his recovery, Maggie brings Milo back to her home with her husband, Lance (a charming Luke Wilson).


Milo tries to rekindle an old relationship with Rich (Ty Burrell), whom he shares a complicated and controversial past.

Maggie is equally screwed up, but has done a better job of masking her issues — a theme Director Craig Johnson and co-writer Mark Heyman (Black Swan (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy Combo Pack) [Blu-ray]) continually explore dating back to the twin’s father’s suicide.

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That’s the gist of the film’s problems. In the span of less than two hours, Johnson and Heyman continue to add another layer to the twins’ dysfunction. Played out over the course over a lengthy TV drama series, it wouldn’t feel like so many soap opera clichés dumped on Milo and Maggie, but for the film’s 93 min. run time, it’s far too much of too many bad things.

the-skeleton-twins - Kristen Wiig and Luke Wilson

Pulling back some on the pathos would have made Milo and Maggie’s struggles more impactful, but with their lives in such a state of disarray, Johnson and Heyman suggest the twins may have had the right idea by trying to kill themselves.

It also doesn’t help that the film’s one likeable character, Lance, gets treated the worst once Maggie’s secrets start coming out further making Maggie less sympathetic.

The tone is also inconsistent as one moment the film earns some laughs with awkward exchanges between the characters complete with a seemingly requisite lip-synching moment — in this case to Jefferson Starship’s Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now  — but then dramatically shifts to yet another bleak and somber moment. Suicide just doesn’t seem like the most fertile ground for comedy and Johnson and Heyman would have been better suited making the film a straight drama instead of this odd comedy/drama hybrid.

the-skeleton-twins - Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader

Hader shows an amazing range as a dramatic performer and he’s the film’s biggest surprise. Hader teases that he could follow a career path similar to Jim Carey in making his start as a comedic force to becoming a respected dramatic actor as well. While we’ve seen Wiig in these depressed, barely functional roles before, she finds another level to tap into here and it’s some of her best work.

For Hader and Wiig fans and those seeking a somber, sibling solidarity flick, this will do the trick, but for those seeking a film you’ll actually enjoy watching, don’t bother seeing out The Skeleton Twins.

Rating: 3 out of 10

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  • Anonymous

    I don’t understand the source of your myopic review of this film. This movie and its examination of a damaged yet close brother/sister relationship is so like the one I have with my dear brother that I couldn’t help but cry at numerous points in the film. “Soap opera”? Have you ever seen a soap opera? There aren’t many of them left these days. Is that really your heartfelt point of comparison? “The Skeleton Twins” is infinitely more refined in its writing, acting and direction than that. I have never seen a soap opera I could relate to. Maybe your sibling relationships, if you have siblings, are more clean cut and tidy than the one in “The Skeleton Twins”. But can you at least broaden your world view, and therefore your assessment, enough to acknowledge that for some siblings who are the progeny of disfuctional parenting, (as is addressed in the movie), the dark tone and dramatic plot turns are only minutely exaggerated as is appropriate when cinematically telling a story? It is surprising that an experienced(?) film critic would imply this movie contains the same histrionics and mind numbing repetitions that soap operas do.

  • I’m glad you enjoyed it and could relate to it. I didn’t because it overloaded on the drama and just miserable. I’m all about giving every movie a fair shot, but my dislike shouldn’t affect your enjoyment of it.

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