Sep 25, 2015

[Movies] The Skeleton Twins (2014)

When you encounter movies that involve Saturday Night Life alumni, you sort of expect things to be a comedy. And we're talking laugh-out-loud sort of funny. This feels like a particularly more realistic expectation when you have a number of them in one movie. But then again, you can be totally and completely wrong as well. And that's just how life is.

The Skeleton Twins has SNL's Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig as the lead stars and I totally love both of them to bits. They were some of the strongest members of the show and recent years and so I was looking forward to some seriously funny stuff because of this pairing.

But instead this was more of a "isn't life quirky that way?" sort of comedy that leans more to the drama side of the equation as well. This doesn't made it a bad movie on its own - it just leaves people like me with inaccurate expectations of what the movie is going to be like. In the end you have a somewhat more somber piece that does break some of the tension with humor but for the most part is rather serious.

Synopsis: The Skeleton Twins is a comedy drama movie directed by Craig Johnson with a screenplay by Johnson and Mark Heymann. The movie premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.

The movie begins with Milo (Bill Hader) carefully preparing for his suicide complete with a note and eventually slitting his wrists in the bathtub. We then cut to his sister Maggie (Kristen Wiig), who is coincidentally about to attempt to overdose on pills when the hospital calls her up to inform her of her brother's situation. The two are fraternal twins and had not seen one another in at least a decade. Thus she ends up going to Los Angeles to see him and thereafter invites him to join her husband and her in New York. It takes some convincing, but Milo eventually agrees to go.

There he meets Lance (Luke Wilson) and learns about their attempts to have a baby as of late. However Milo remembers that Maggie has never had any plans of having children, so this whole update was a bit of a surprise to him. And as he gets used to living back at home where he grew up. And as much as Milo has his issues to work through, his sister Maggie has her fair share as well. One quirk is her on-going scuba diving classes where she happens to be sleeping with the diving instructor.

A lot of the story centers around Milo having a somewhat traumatic past as a homosexual youth. An incident with a certain teacher while he was underage is pretty much theAn core conflict of sort in the story, especially since Milo inevitably reconnects with the teacher in more ways than one. And while this is a valid thing to happen and a complex issue on its own, but I sort of wish we didn't have quite so many stories of this nature. It's sort of like how a lot of the "indie" Philippine LGBT movies tend to focus on the sort of desperate acts people are driven to like prostitution or harsh coming out stories involving conflicted guys.

Bill Hader was rather thoughtful in his performance as Milo. As much as many of us find him to be quite over-the-top as an actor (think Jim Carey levels), he was a lot more withdrawn this time around and that made a difference in the final performance. A lot of the movie depended on him portraying the complex state of Milo as someone who hadn't done too well in life and was prepared to end everything.

Kristen Wiig was of a similar demeanor, thus implying that these twins were perhaps identical in more way than physical appearance as family members. She was similarly introspective in a way as she was holding her cards to her chest given all the troubles that she has been facing as well. And what is sadder is that she's supposed to already be in a loving relationship, but clearly she has issues that she isn't talking about, and thus isn't resolving.

I'm not quite sure how this becomes a comedy, really, since it didn't exactly have situations that I would find to be comedic. Or maybe the fact that suicide and child abuse were pretty much central themes in the movie made it harder for me to appreciate things fully. And the way things were shot with most of the scenes involving lengthy bits of dialogue alternating with silence, so yeah not funny in a "hahaha" sort of sending.

And it's hard to fully appreciate where the movie wanted to go. I mean really, Milo tried to kill himself and ends up going home and somewhat reconnecting with a man who once took advantage of him as a kid. I'm not sure that's the sort of therapy that he'd want to have in order to become better. And the way things ends just make things strange as well. Or maybe not strange - perhaps more disturbing.

The Skeleton Twins is still a complex drama that portrays a lot of the complexity of one's family relationships and the secrets that we keep. Our lives are shaped by our experiences and this movie really seems to stress that fact. So I can only rate the movie as 3 strange flashbacks of childhood out of a possible 5.


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