After they separately try and fail to commit suicide, estranged twins Maggie (Wiig), a discontented dental hygienist, and Milo (Hader), a gay, failed actor, reconnect as Maggie invites Milo to move into her upstate New York home with regular-guy husband Lance (Wilson).
About halfway through The Skeleton Twins, Craig Johnson’s warm and funny look at siblings in meltdown, Bill Hader’s Milo coaxes his twin, Kristen Wiig’s Maggie, into lip-synching along to Starship’s Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us. It’s a joyous moment, the standout scene in the film and perhaps exactly what you’d expect from a Wiig/Hader team-up, two Saturday Night Live alumni goofing off to the max.
Only the film that surrounds the singsong doesn’t really conform to the template, for The Skeleton Twins is a perfectly played, beautifully modulated study in complex brother-sister relationships and barely concealed pain. After a double suicide attempt, the film brings the distant siblings together, eking out the hurt in their private lives — Maggie is a serial cheater on husband Lance (a relentlessly can-do Luke Wilson); Milo tries to rekindle a relationship with Rich (Ty Burrell), the English teacher who seduced him in school — but finding more fertile ground in their reconnection.
As you’d expect, Wiig and Hader have a rooted rapport and the film is good on siblings: the rivalries, the shared sense of humour and the effortless ability to push each other’s buttons. Hader skirts close to gay caricature but pulls it back, allying depth and darkness to catty one-liners; Wiig juggles comedic lightness with emotional heft, showing every sign she is capable of becoming one of the dramatic greats. Together, the pair nail both the estrangement and the gradual realisation that they are the only people who might understand each other.
Occasionally the film edges towards indie-by-numbers (an eccentric mother figure, water symbolism 101). It also owes a debt to You Can Count On Me. Still, the film boasts an appealing autumnal look and Johnson gives his leads space to play. When Wiig and Hader are on together, be it arguing in the street or inhaling laughing gas in a dentist’s office, The Skeleton Twins comes alive.
An engaging comedy drama lifted by two revelatory performances. Wiig in particular suggests an Academy Award-winner-in-waiting.