DVD Review: “The Skeleton Twins”

There were, at last count, 39 basic movie categories. These categories include prison movies, boxing movies, airplane movies, historical period pieces, sci-fi, apocalypse, Westerns, cops, revenge, retired CIA operatives getting one last job, tragedies, young romance, twilight years romance, bromance, dance, gross-out, bedroom farce, war, doctors and hospitals, nurses and doctors, courtroom, satire, stoner, horses and dogs.

There are, of course, sub-categories and hybrids, e.g., women in prison movies, boxers in prison movies, historical period sci-fi, war doctors and stoner dogs.

Only recently has the family bummer emerged as genre. “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” (2007) is the story of two brothers who orchestrate the robbery of their parents jewelry store and everything goes hugely to hell. “The Savages” (also 2007) tells the dreary tale of a sad brother and sister, their careers in shambles, taking on the care of their demented dad. In “Young Adult” (2011), Charlize Theron returns to her hometown to relive the good times and hook up with her now-married high school boyfriend. It doesn’t go so well.

And now, “The Skeleton Twins.”

A brother and sister — fraternal twins! — long estranged, are reunited by attempted suicides. They swiftly discover how truly disappointed they are with their lives, careers, past histories and present relationships. Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader are the depressed duo. Seasoned “Saturday Night Live” vets, they’ve got the acting chops and the comic timing and they play off one another very well. But the material … the material … bummerowski.

The action begins as West Coaster Milo (Hader) dashes off a useless note and slits his wrists. At that very moment, sister Maggie (Wiig) is just about to chug a handful of prescription pills but is interrupted when she gets the call about her brother. So she fetches him back to New York, where she lives with her big-hearted husband, Lance (Luke Wilson).

Maggie is hiding from Lance the fact that she is a) taking birth control pills though he wants to be a dad, and b) having wild sex with her scuba instructor. For his part, Milo, who is gay, looks up his old English teacher with whom he had sex when he was a student of 15. It doesn’t go so well and Maggie is so furious when she finds out that she tells Milo to try a little harder the next time he cuts his wrists.

Good, old Lance finally catches a clue and hits the road. Maggie’s marriage, her relationship with her brother and — for some reason — her goldfish are all dead. She decides to end it all.

What happens next is, for some, a happy ending. But by this point, all notions and hope for happiness have withered. For the record, other critics liked this movie. We were not consulted.

Stephen Fay

Stephen Fay

Managing Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Fay, managing editor of The Ellsworth American since 1996, is a third-generation Californian. Starting out as a news reporter in 1974, he has been an editor since 1976, working in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont before settling in Ellsworth with his wife and two daughters. [email protected]

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