Title: The Skeleton Twins
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Director: Craig Johnson
Music: Nathan Larson
Cinematography: Reed Morano
Kathleen Rose Perkins
In viewing of its title, this dark comedy features SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE alumni Hader and Wigg doesn’t look like a gag-packed farce as one may preconceive, THE SKELETON TWINS is director Craig Johnson’s second film, it became a Sundance darling in 2014, and surges onto the top-tier of USA’s indie output last year, so I am tempted to check whether or not it deserves the merits.
In general terms, the film can be encapsulated as follows: two siblings whose father committed suicide in their early age and when they grow up, their neglectful mother tries too hard to overcompensate with mental cleansing process (“a purity emerges from your crown chakra”!); a wife who has an incorrigible compulsion to have sex with other men and a shirker who takes birth control while agreeing on making a baby with her husband; a man full of gay clichés suffers from incessant depression, who is also a victim of child molestation, but worst of all, years later he is still lingering on with the perpetrator, yet in his defence it was just a normal love affair between an underage student and his professor. And spoilers alert, the film begins and ends with (multiple) suicidal attempts. Doesn’t sound like a comedy, right? Credits must be munificently given to Johnson and his co-writer Mark Heyman, who briskly spike humour and enlightenment (peaked-in-highschool revelation) into the cliché-ridden storyline, and never wear out viewers to tedium.
Wigg is the said wife Maggie and Bader is her twin gay brother Milo, who has distanced themselves through years and basically haven’t seen each other for a decade, as the synopsis on the movie’s IMDB page intriguingly put “having both coincidentally cheated death on the same day…”, my initial response is that there must be some mysterious twins telepathy involved, but surprisingly (in a good way), it turns out to be a sheer coincidence roots in a plausible ground, and the plot doesn’t cling too much to it either, the re-bonding process between Maggie and Milo is the best part of this indie fare since Wigg and Hader is so unbelievably adroit in improvisation due to their years-long co-acting experience and tacit understanding, despite that the fart gag still pungently re-affirms that homespun American comedy haven’t evolved much from their toilet fixations, even in low-budget productions. And among the comical parts, the highlight belongs to their impeccable lip-syncing battle of Starship’s NOTHING IS GONNA STOP US NOW, definitely an official invitation to the new variety show LIP SYNC BATTLE.
Kristen Wigg’s box-office alpha-comedienne crown may be unexpectedly upstaged by Melissa McCarthy after the huge success of BRIDESMAIDS (2011), but she steadfastly steers her non-mainstream career path with interesting projects like this where she unleashes incredible chops both in comic timing and wry drama scenes, as she can pull off a captivating brooding when silence trumps words. Bill Hader is equally admirable, who minces his manner to give Milo the effeminate touch which doesn’t incline to be offensive, and sculpts a life-affirming revelation in the end. Ty Burrell plays against the grain as a weak-minded closet gay man and Luke Wilson plays the stereotype of a perfect husband material, each respectively embodies the extremities of the misery of a secretive life and the sadness of being a all-too-good duck soup without any secrets, after all, we are more at ease dwelling in between, just like Maggie and Milo, life is good as long as there is a firm helping-hand whenever it is needed.