Oct 3, 2014

My Mom and I Review "The Skeleton Twins"

Television might be my one true love, but there's nothing quite as comforting as being in a darkened theater, popcorn in hand, to watch a movie with family.  So, when The Skeleton Twins, a dramedy starring Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, premiered, I knew that there was one person I needed to see it with: my mother. Thankfully, she was in town.

The Skeleton Twins tells the story of Milo and Maggie (Hader and Wiig), two twins who have lost touch over the years but are thrown together again due to circumstance. That circumstance is Milo's attempted suicide, which forces a reunion between the siblings and brings Milo back to his hometown and into the home of Maggie and her husband Lance (the always dependable Luke Wilson). Milo and Maggie are depressed and messed up by themselves but seem to function better together; they're like conjoined twins who are having trouble surviving without the other's constant affection and interaction. With Milo back home and falling back into a dysfunctional relationship, and Maggie trying to stay in her relationship and out of trouble, the reunion seems to come at exactly the right time.

Tableau: So, Mom, what did you think of the movie?

Mom: I laughed and I cried, and that's all I ask of a movie.

T:  Did you cry at the right moments? Did the movie feel too funny or too depressing?

M:  No, I think it didn't feel like too much of either. I think it could have gone to darker places.

T: And it could have been funnier.

M: But the humor and the sadness seems real.

T: It's not Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig yucking it up. It's real people who are naturally funny but not "famous comedian" funny.

M: And instead of being constantly humorous, it becomes the story of two people who need help and can't seem to get out of their own way.

T: When the movie opens, they're both in denial about a lot.

M:  They can be more honest with each other than they can be with themselves. Being together forces them to face their demons.

T: So it's appropriate that the movie takes place over the Halloween. More than demon-facing, though, this movie is all about lies. Lies you tells others, lies you tell yourself. Putting two incredibly dishonest people at the center of your film is a bold choice.

M: And it's great that, as siblings, it's more of a sin for them to lie to each other than it is for them to lie to other people. You don't judge Milo for lying to his former teacher/lover, but you do just him for lying to Maggie.

T: And most of the tension comes from those lies they tell each other building up until they explode in a cacophony of sadness. And the success of that climax falls on Wiig and Hader's shoulders. Now, I've been consistently impressed with Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader since they left SNL, but this is probably their best work they've done.

M: Definitely, and they use the chemistry they honed on SNL to full effect here. They have a lived-in, familial chemistry that looks and feels natural on-screen.

T: They really feel like brother and sister throughout the movie. I've seen so many movies where actors playing siblings and parents, for seemingly no reason, have a weirdly sexual chemistry. This movie was, thankfully, completely devoid of that.

M: Speaking of chemistry, can we talk about Luke Wilson?

T: Star of the film!

M: Star of the film! He plays Wiig's husband, and it's such a great role. He's such a decent, good-hearted person. He's a lot like your father.

T: Indeed. Great guys, both of 'em. And that kind of role could read as so corny and cheesy on paper, but Wilson's so fantastic that you just want to give him a hug and never stop hanging out with him. Also like my father.

M: He's like a human puppy. And he's so content in the movie to let his wife and brother-in-law do their thing. He doesn't intrude on other people's happiness.

Luke Wilson in Enlightened
T: I loved Luke Wilson so much as Laura Dern's husband in the dearly departed series Enlightened, and I'm so happy that he's still getting work that challenges him and plays to his strengths.

M: He should be a much-more famous actor than he is.

T: Poor old whitey.

M: That's rude.

T: Sorry....
Anyway, Wilson's character is great because he provides such a nice contrast to Wiig and Hader, whose problems become that much more apparent when shown next to such a stand-up guy.

M: If he wasn't there, you might forget that you're watching a movie about two incredibly depressed and messed up people.

T: Speaking of depressed, how do you feel about the ending?  I think we may have similar opinions on this.

M: I liked the ending, but it was all a little too neat. Everything resolved itself in a way that felt tonally different than the rest of the movie.

T: YES! It was like, all of a sudden, the filmmakers felt like an ending needed to happen, and everyone rushes to a conclusion, throwing pacing and plausibility out the window.

M: And up until the last ten minutes, the movie moves very glacially. When the pace ramps up, it suddenly feels like you're in a different movie. Same characters, different movie.

T: For sure. Anything else that you wanted to add?

M: You should call your grandmother more often.

T: I mean about the movie.

M: No. It's a really good movie, and the actors are terrific.

T: And it's beautifully shot.

M: I would definitely recommend it.

T: Same.

M: It doesn't quite stick the landing, but the rest of the performance is so good that you're okay with a sloppy finish.

T: Like Kerri Strug.

M: Topical.

T: Burn!
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