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02 Oct 2014

Sensational Siblings: Two 'SNL' Greats Prove They Have Dramatic Chops in the Fantastic 'Skeleton Twins'

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Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig in The Skeleton Twins. Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig in The Skeleton Twins.

Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader take their careers to the next level with The Skeleton Twins, a film that lets them prove their talents go way beyond things that are just funny.

Craig Johnson’s second directorial effort has some intermittent laughs, but it gets a lot darker than one might expect from a film starring the Target Lady and Stefon. The stands as one of the year’s greater—and more complicated—family dramas.

The two play twins, long estranged, who wind up back in each other’s lives. Milo (Hader) tries to commit suicide in L.A. after breaking up with his boyfriend. His twin sister, Maggie (Wiig), is preparing to do the very same thing in New York when the call comes in that Milo is in the hospital. After an awkward reunion in a hospital room, Milo heads to New York with his twin sis to lay low.

The two, both very depressed, try to rekindle their relationship while coping with their own self-destructive impulses. Maggie is cheating on her affable husband (Luke Wilson), while Milo tries to re-enter the life of the former high school teacher (Ty Burrell) who slept with him when he was underage. The time Hader and Burrell spend onscreen together is mighty awkward.

Wiig and Hader make a convincing on screen brother and sister. Their characters clearly love one another, but are certainly capable of severely hurting each other. We find out late that some major wounds from high school goings-on haven’t fully healed, and the resultant fiery scenes are very well-played. Hader and Wiig have natural sibling chemistry, no doubt something that developed over their years together at Saturday Night Live.

Johnson provides them with a couple of funny scenes that allow them to really cut up, including a lip synch of Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,” and a sequence involving laughing gas. The scenes offer some welcome contrast to the more heavy stuff.

I can’t say this film contains the best Hader performance ever, because he did play that pot-smoking guy in the beginning of Pineapple Express, and I’m not sure anything will ever top that. Still, Milo is a great character—sensitive and sweet in moments, but also nasty, sarcastic and vindictive at times. Hader shows that he has the potential for a long dramatic career ahead of him, following in SNL brother Will Forte’s footsteps. (I now want to see a movie in which they play brothers.)

Wiig, without a doubt, is the best dramatic actress to emerge from Saturday Night Live. Her work in Bridesmaids may’ve garnered big laughs, but there was an edge to that performance that showed she could handle emotionally rich material. Her Maggie is a bit despicable, but always sympathetic, and Wiig does not hit one false note. If she keeps this up, she’s going to start pulling down Oscar nominations.

Wilson helps fuel some great scenes with his optimistic and somewhat simplistic character. He’s a likable dummy who believes he’s married to the greatest girl in the world. You always know he has a rude awakening coming. Burrell basically plays a creep with no redeeming qualities—and he does it well.

By the way, all of you folks who used to complain about the Wiig years on SNL: Did you see the SNL season premiere? Are you missing Wiig yet? Holy hell! I know this is off the subject, but I had to get a dig in. Lorne Michaels … you and your crew are slumming!

We are heading into that time of the year when some movies bring wonderful, brilliant surprises. Hader and Wiig will surprise you with this one.

The Skeleton Twins is playing at the Regal Palm Springs Stadium 9 (789 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, Palm Springs; 844-462-7342), the Regal Rancho Mirage Stadium 16 (72777 Dinah Shore Drive, Rancho Mirage; 844-462-7342) and the Century Theatres at The River (71800 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage; 760-836-1940).

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