The Skeleton Twins

This is a film that derives its strength not from comedy, but the emotional connection of disturbed twins. Yet the funny scenes are really, really funny.

The Skeleton TwinsIf you’ve seen the previews or trailers for The Skeleton Twins, I’m sure you think that it is an hysterical comedy provided by the SNL graduates, Bill Hader and Kristin Wiig. Those previews are profoundly misleading, as the funniest scenes are all on full display. Yet this remains a hauntingly engaging movie for completely unexpected reasons.

More to the point, Wiig and Hader are twins who have not seen each other for over ten years. Both are emotionally shattered, and the film begins with Hader trying to kill himself by slicing his wrists in a tub while Ms. Wiig contemplates her own death with a handful of prescription drugs.

In the process, they are reunited, trying desperately to find meaning in their own life while trying to help each other. Mr. Hader is gay, and he still suffers from a high school episode where he ended up having a sexual relationship with his high school English teacher. He isn’t helped when that teacher, played quite competently by Modern Family’s Ty Burrell, again accidentally appears in his life at a bookstore.

Ms. Wiig claims to be happily married to a kind and clueless husband (Luke Wilson) while having continual affairs with men she barely knows. Hader, constantly haunted by the fact that his best years are long behind him,  repeatedly contemplates death while Ms. Wiig fights her own personal revulsion that she has become a housewife with prostitute-like tendencies.

Mr. Hader is proving to be a very engaging actor, and he has made mighty contributions to some very amusing films. He was a hoot playing Willy, the swimming pool manager in The To Do List (2013) and made valuable contributions to such memorable films as Super Bad (2007), Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Tropic Thunder and Pineapple Express, all in 2008. On top of that, he is unforgettable as the chef of James McAvoy’s restaurant in this year’s The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them.

I’m not sure where Ms. Wiig is destined to go on the big screen, as she has starred in a number of films that range from good to borderline awful. She was rightfully praised for her wicked roles in Bridesmaids and Paul, both in 2011. However, her appearances in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and Anchor Man 2: The Legend Continues are films that I suspect she would like to forget. She does nothing for the feminist movement by playing women who are little more than ditsy and light-headed.

As noted above, there are some laugh out loud moments as our twins fight their mutual depression, but they never succeed in digging their way out of their emotional hole. The strength of the film comes from the simple fact that you are left rooting for these two troubled souls knowing that a terrible day of reckoning awaits them.

Wiig and Hader are captivating from the beginning, though it was hard not to suspect that a date with infamy awaits them.