DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

THE SKELETON TWINS (director/writer: Craig Johnson; screenwriter: Mark Heyman; cinematographer: Reed Morano; editor: Jennifer Lee; music: Nathan Larson; cast: Bill Hader (Milo), Kristen Wiig (Maggie), Luke Wilson (Lance), Ty Burrell (Rich), Boyd Holbrook (Billy, scuba instructor), Joanna Gleason (Judy); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Jennifer Lee/Stephanie Langhoff/Jacob Pechenik; Roadside Attractions; 2014)

"Heart-felt adult soap opera."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This is the second film helmed by the actor turned director Craig Johnson ("True Adolescents"). The comedy stars "Saturday Night Live" alums Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, who try their hand at doing serious drama with comical moments in this limited but heart-felt adult soap opera. The major fault is that it ends too abruptly, leaving plot points not fully dug out. It's written by the director and Mark Heyman, who blend comedy into the dramatic story of depressed screw-ups trying to get their life together.

Adult twins Milo Dean (Bill Hader) and Maggie Dean (Kristen Wiig) coincidentally fail to take their lives on the same day. He cut his writs and is hospitalized. She fails to take a bunch of sleeping pills when the hospital calls about her brother. Milo is living in L. A. as a failed gay actor, who earns his keep as a waiter. Maggie is an unhappy dental hygienist, who for the last two years has lived with ultra nice guy Lance (Luke Wilson) in her hometown of upstate NY and is planning on marrying him. He is glad that she agrees to have a kid, but she is secretly taking birth control pills.

Maggie flies to see her estranged brother. The visit is awkward since they have not been in contact since their father committed suicide ten years ago. After their awkward meeting, Maggie convinces Milo to stay with her for awhile in their small town NY hometown.

Things get dicey when Maggie shows she's a slut by screwing her Aussie scuba instructor (Boyd Holbrook), something she knows would be devastating to her saintly trusting overly optimistic boyfriend. Meanwhile Milo contacts his former high school English teacher Rich (Ty Burrell), now running a book store. He's the married man who seduced him when he was in his class. The two begin an affair again, even as Rich admits to being a "pathetic pussy" and using the relationship to get the deceitful Milo to show his Hollywood agent his script.

Adding to Maggie's distress, is Milo bringing their superficial and uncaring New Age mom (Joanna Gleason) home for dinner, without her permission. Mom flew in from her home in Sedona to attend a healing conference in nearby Woodstock. It results in mom being called out by her daughter as a selfish shit. Mom, before departing for Woodstock, retorts to her neglected kids another meaningless platitude about sending them "The Light" rather than offering them real love.

By the final curtain the damaged goods twins are forced to look at themselves in the mirror, and search for the truth about themselves. That predictably moves them closer to mending their torn relationship.

It gets its title from a memorable Halloween party the children participate in, where symbolic skeletons come out of the closet as their dad dubs them the "gruesome twosome" in the hopes they will bond together to always protect each other. The childhood flashback is a reminder of how close they once were, where currently they are so distant. It all leads to a sibling reunion, despite all their flaws, selfish behavior patterns, life setbacks and misgivings about each other.

The clever script deservedly won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Prize at January's Sundance Film Festival.

REVIEWED ON 11/28/2014       GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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