Maggie and Milo are reunited under precarious circumstances, after a ten-year estrangement in Craig Johnson’s dark, funny and impressive second feature.
Out on nationwide release, November 7th (15) Run time: 93 mins
Director(s): Craig Johnson Writer(s): Craig Johnson, Mark Heyman Cast: Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Luke Wilson, Ty Burrell, Boyd Holbrook, Joanna Gleason.
Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig. It’s a match made, quite literally, in SNL figurative heaven. Alums of the infamous American late night comedy show, where some of the best film and television talent have been schooled (i.e. Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Andy Samberg and Amy Poehler), and with the predestined, unspoken tradition for its members to collaborate on other projects, it was only a matter of time before Wiig and Hader shared center stage on film.
Twins Maggie and Milo haven’t seen each other for ten years but their sibling bond, however slack, still manages to bring them together after they both escape near death experiences on the same day. A failed actor and desperately lonely Milo feels stuck in his past, leaving his present very bleak indeed. Equally in dire straights (but less readily to admit it) on paper Maggie’s life should be great, she’s got a loving husband (funny, charming average joe performance from Luke Wilson) and they’re trying for a baby, but the reality has left her empty and unhinged. Only when Milo comes back into her life do the twins begin to unravel and explore the details of why their lives became so tragic; it’s here where the dark twisted undertones similar to co-writer Mark Heyman’s previous scripts (Black Swan, The Wrestler) comes to play.
Flitting between the dream-like sepia tones and long-held centred shots that has become synonymous with independent movies, this Duplass Brothers produced movie is a long way from an indie budget but it’s the same idea. The claustrophobic, sleepy-feel of a small town American suburb is all too familiar, especially when most of the film takes place in the confines of Maggie’s house, an indoor swimming pool or in someones car.
Wiig has arguably had a chance to display her talents as a very good actress, notably in Bridesmaids. Juggling humour and drama comes naturally so it was no hard push to see her sink her teeth into the sombre role of Maggie. What she does do however is give her long time co-star the spotlight. To most audiences oversees Bill Hader (Superbad) is a relatively new face, in the US and for those familiar with his SNL exploits this role, by and large, is a huge side-step and he is superb. It’s a truly beautiful, tactful, sharp-witted and heartbreaking performance. Don’t get me wrong, to have Wiig and Hader together onscreen without the over the top childish humour is nonsense let alone have the latter removed from a calling that comes so easily to him – during a particularly low point Maggie discerns that Milo retained his humour and he concedes that it’s the one thing that can’t be taken from him.
Despite the sad, dark overtones Hader still brings the silly, both of them do, it even feels like we’re intruding in their private joke at times, such is the bond conveyed on-screen that I suspect is born out of a long-held mutual appreciation from the two leads. The Skeleton Twins gives both actors the opportunity to deliver nuanced, layered and for the most part, sobering performances that may surprise and delight fans and unfamiliar audiences alike.