When estranged twins Maggie (Kristen Wiig) and Milo (Bill Hader) feel they’re at the end of their ropes, an unexpected reunion forces them to confront why their lives went so wrong. As the twins reconnect, they realize the key to fixing their lives may just lie in repairing their relationship.
Suicide certainly isn’t a fun (or funny) subject, but there’s a certain catharsis given to the subject matter in The Skeleton Twins, which features a cast known for their comedic roles in largely dramatic ones.
Bill Hader turns in a surprisingly deep performance as Milo, an aspiring actor who decides to slit his wrists after a recent romantic involvement goes south, the latest in a lifelong series of unfortunate events. Maggie (an equally brilliant Kristen Wiig), whose own suicidal tendencies are slightly better masked than Milo’s, brings Milo back to their hometown, where the two are forced to face their demons together and apart.
The troubles come in many different forms, some shared and others not. Relationships are a common problem for the twins. For Maggie, it’s a marriage with the “right guy” (Luke Wilson) that doesn’t fulfill her the way she hoped it would. For Milo, it’s a relationship with his former English professor (Ty Burrell) that originally happened when Milo was 15. There’s also a shared disconnect from their mother (Joanna Gleeson), who started a new family while neglecting her old one, and the hovering issue of their father, who committed suicide.
Hader and Wiig worked together for years on Saturday Night Live; that shared history must have helped the two develop a chemistry that makes them feel like siblings in both their sweeter and spikier moments. As a film that opens with a suicide attempt suggests, there are plenty of the spikier moments. But while the film doesn’t necessarily end in a happy moment, it does offer a glimpse of hope for Milo and Maggie.
With Milo being gay, the film touches on a number of issues surrounding his sexuality. One notable observation: Milo’s story tends to refute the popular “It Gets Better” message. In one scene in particular, Milo discusses his theory from high school about his bully peaking by graduation and him succeeding afterwards, only to find that in reality, nothing really changed.