Wiig and Hader channel funny-but-suicidal siblings

Tom Long
The Detroit News

‘The Skeleton Twins’ is about as much fun as a film about suicidal siblings with messed-up lives can be.

The performances from Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig move from poignant to hilarious with disarming ease, and director Craig Johnson, writing with Mark Heyman, shows an uncanny sense of tone for a second-time feature maker, keeping the characters fully human throughout while still letting the former “Saturday Night Live” stars still kick up some wondrous improv laughs.

The film begins in Los Angeles, where gay aspiring screenwriter-actor Milo (Hader) attempts suicide. Coincidentally, his estranged twin sister Maggie (Wiig) is standing across the country in front of a mirror with a handful of pills when she gets the call. Even though they haven’t seen one another in a decade, Maggie flies to LA, collects Milo and brings him back to her upstate New York home in the town they grew up in.

Maggie is married to the good-natured-if-clueless Lance (a sincerely affable Luke Wilson), and they’re trying to have a baby. Likely getting in the way are the birth control pills Maggie keeps hidden in the bathroom. In other words, Maggie may have the perfect facade going on, but she’s just as damaged as Milo.

Happily she’s also every bit as funny as Milo. Once the twins become more comfortable with one another, the easy chemistry of their childhood bond kicks in, and whether they’re testing nitrous at Maggie’s dental office (she’s a hygienist), trading lip syncs and dancing to bad metal pop or just trading digs, there’s a magic being rekindled here that’s both giddy and desperately needed.

Needed because dark turns abound. Milo reunites with the older man (Ty Burrell) who seduced him when he was still underage, and Maggie runs through a set of quickies with her scuba instructor (Boyd Holbrook), which emerges as part of a larger problem.

Meanwhile, Milo is actually making friends with the gullible Lance, who’s given him work and been nothing but encouraging. And that friendship sets the stage for a clash between the twins.

The longstanding wisdom that the vulnerable nature of comic acting sets the stage for fine dramatic performances is given full proof here — both Haden and Wiig carry the serious side of things masterfully, with Wiig’s mad housewife holding particular heft and panic. And yet at the same time this is probably the funniest film Hader has made and certainly holds Wiig’s most wonderfully loose moments since “Bridesmaids.”

Still, this isn’t that sort of comedy with dramatic underpinnings. This is the story of severely wounded adults born of traumatized childhoods who manage to find, and cling to, humor and each other as life preservers. What a lovely, thoughtful, funny film. See it.


“The Skeleton Twins” (R ) Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig star as estranged suicidal twins in this lovely, thoughtful, funny and well-made film about damage and bonds that won’t break. See it. (93 minutes) GRADE: B+

‘The Skeleton Twins’


Rated R

for language, some

sexuality and drug use

Running time: 93 minutes