The Skeleton Twins

The Skeleton Twins ★★★½

I remember really looking forward to "The Skelton Twins" at Sunday 2014 and then the word-of-mouth to my ears seemed a bit tepid and I moved on to other things, though it won the screenplay award that Sundance and it looks like the reviews were actually more positive than I remember.


It popped up as a recommendation on the Hulu algorithm tonight and I couldn't bring myself to watch a so-so Oscar bait movie with the nominations just two days away to make it easier to cull the field. So I watched and...

It's REALLY good. At 82 minutes it's probably thinner than it needs to be and as somebody who spends six days a week writing TV reviews that almost all seem to include a variation on, "This felt padded," it's odd for me to say, "This could have used a bit more padding." But there were go. I think at 10 or 15 minutes more, it could have been in that upper tier of movies about co-dependent siblings, that "You Can Count on Me"/"Dead Ringers" (sorry, no clue why those are the two that came to mind) tier.

But even in its thin form, it's incredibly watchable in large part because Kristen Wiig and especially Bill Harder are so, so, so good. I wonder if critics/audiences weren't quite tuned into the two "SNL" stars in a semi-dramatic wavelength, but if this movie premiered at Sundance today, Hader would be a lock for an Oscar nomination, or at least months of Oscar buzz. He's so heartbreakingly quiet and internalized for most of the movie, but the script is smart enough to give him little drunk/high moments to be BILL HADER, but when the thing you have to compare it to is his excellent "Barry" performance instead of mostly "SNL" stuff, it's easy to see how sad and wounded and nuanced he is. Wiig too, though this may be closer to some of her "SNL" work only with the volume turned down. The chemistry between them is completely believable, both in wonderfully endearing and funny moments like the "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" lip-synch, and in the hard dramatic stuff like the cutting "all on the table" climax.

And I wouldn't say it's the BEST use of Luke Wilson, because Wes Anderson movies and "Enlightened" exist, but this is a pretty perfect use of Luke Wilson, as the alpha-normal guy stuck trying to make sense of the codependent siblings. If the movie got that 10 or 15 extra minutes, I think a lot of them could have involved him and I rarely finish movies and say, "Needs more Luke Wilson."

Formally, it's very stagey and you can sense director Craig Johnson is staging scenes so that almost all of them end up with two characters sitting next to each other on a couch or against a wall, but Reed Marano's cinematography gives it a stop more visual polish than your average "Depressed guy returns to hometown, confrontations ensue" Sundance flick.