Simpering rivalry

"We're not impressed by you, Bob."

"We're not impressed by you, Bob."

Rated 4.0

Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader take their respective careers to the next level in The Skeleton Twins, with both of them spreading their dramatic wings and proving their talents go way beyond things that are just funny.

Craig Johnson’s second directorial effort has some intermittent laughs, but it gets a lot darker than one might expect for the Target Lady and Stefon. The movie should do a lot for both Hader and Wiig’s careers, and stands as one of the year’s better, and more complicated, family dramas.

The duo play brother and sister twins, long estranged, who wind up back in each other’s lives. Milo (Hader) tries to commit suicide in L.A. after breaking up with his boyfriend. His twin sister, Maggie (Wiig), had been trying to do the very same thing back in New York when the call comes in that Milo is in the hospital. After an awkward reunion in a hospital room, Milo heads to New York with his twin sis to lay low for a while.

The two, both very depressed, try to rekindle their sibling relationship while coping with their own self-destructive impulses. Maggie has taken to cheating on her affable husband (Luke Wilson) while Milo tries to reenter the life of the former high school teacher (Ty Burrell) who slept with him when he was underage. Yes, the time Hader and Burrell spend on screen together is mighty awkward.

Wiig and Hader make for a convincing onscreen brother and sister. Their characters clearly love one another, but are capable of severely hurting one another. We find out late in the game that some stuff that went down in high school resulted in wounds that haven’t fully healed, and the resultant fiery scenes are very well played. Hader and Wiig have natural sibling chemistry, no doubt something that developed over their years together at Saturday Night Live.

Johnson provides the duo with a couple of funny scenes for them to really cut up, including a lip synch of Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” and a sequence involving laughing gas. The scenes help balance the movie out, giving some contrast to the heavier stuff.

I can’t say that this film contains the best Hader performance ever because he did play that pot-smoking guy in the beginning of Pineapple Express, and I’m not sure anything will ever top those five minutes. That said, Milo is a great character, sensitive and sweet in moments but also a bit nasty, sarcastic and vindictive when backed into a corner or simply in a bad mood. Hader shows that he has the potential for a long, dramatic career ahead of him, following in SNL brother Will Forte’s footsteps. Now that I’ve said that, I want to see a movie where they play brothers.

Wiig, without a doubt, is the best dramatic actress to emerge from Saturday Night Live. Her work in Bridesmaids may’ve garnered big laughs, but there was an edge to that performance that showed she could handle the emotionally richer material. Her Maggie is a bit despicable, but always sympathetic, and Wiig hits not one false note. If she keeps this up, she’s going to start pulling down Oscar nominations in the future.

Wilson helps fuel some great scenes with his always optimistic and somewhat simplistic character. He’s a likeable dummy who believes he’s married to the greatest girl in the world. So that, in turn, makes his performance kind of heartbreaking because, as sweet and innocent as he is, you always know he has a rude awakening coming. Burrell basically plays a creep with no redemptive qualities, and he does it well.

By the way, all of you folks who used to complain about the Wiig years on SNLsaying she was in too many sketches and was getting on your nerves—did you see the latest SNL season premiere? Are you missing her yet? Holy Hell! I know this is off the subject, but I had to get a dig in. Lorne Michaels—you and your crew are slumming!

We are heading into that time of the year where movies will hopefully bring many wonderful, brilliant surprises. Hader and Wiig will surprise you with this one.