A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that although The Skeleton Twins stars two actors best known for their comedic talents (Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig), it's an insightful, moving, mature drama that dissects and distils the magic and mayhem of sibling relationships -- especially those who grew up in a dysfunctional and difficult household. Expect plenty of intense scenes that show characters attempting suicide (in one case, a man gets into a tub with water that slowly turns red), lots of swearing (including "f--k" and more), simulated sex (a man and a woman are shown coupling up against a wall, and two men wake up on the morning after their own encounter), drinking (sometimes to destructive inebriation), and a complex storyline involving an adult who was molested and taken advantage of by a teacher but still wants contact with that person.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Milo (Bill Hader), an actor who's mostly making a living as a waiter in Los Angeles, has had enough of life's failures. So he scribbles a note (to no one in particular, just "to whom it may concern"), runs a bath, and slits his wrist. Unbeknownst to him, his sister, Maggie (Kristen Wiig), a dental hygienist with whom has hasn't been in contact for a decade, is contemplating a similar fate on the opposite coast. But she's stopped by a call informing her that Milo has been hospitalized, alive but unwell. When she invites Milo to visit her and her husband, Lance (Luke Wilson), whom Milo has never even met, in the town they both grew up in, he reluctantly accepts. It's a chance to reassess his life and repair deep hurts. The same goes for Maggie, but both of them may be far more scarred than they ever knew.
Is it any good?
In many ways, this impactful drama treads a path previously traveled by many other brilliant movies, including You Can Count On Me and the outstanding The Savages. But The Skeleton Twins also forges new ground by pushing the envelope both in humor (there's no issue too dark to mine for absurdity or wit) and sadness (nothing hurts more than the truth). The dialogue cuts like a knife, it's so sharp; it also makes you bleed with its honesty. And it refreshingly feels no need to explain every reference or fill in every gap, trusting the audience to be intelligent and intuitive enough to get it. At times it glosses over one too many things -- the reason for Milo and Maggie's 10-year estrangement is dismissed with a quick "we don't have to talk about it" -- and makes too easy of fun of Lance and those who aren't as complex as Milo and Maggie. Still, with so many other reasons to love it, The Skeleton Twins won't be forgotten anytime soon.
On Saturday Night Live, Hader and Wiig almost seemed as if they could read each other's minds whenever they shared the screen. They were so in tune that you could almost describe their partnership as a mind meld. Ditto in THE SKELETON TWINS, a major coup of a movie that allows them to explore their range -- the verdict: wide and deep -- and tell a propelling and profoundly stirring story at the same time.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how The Skeleton Twins handles the subject of suicide. Does it show what the impact is of that act/decision? How do characters come to terms with those kinds of feelings?
Another challenging subject brought up in the film is how a teacher crosses boundaries with a student and how this type of relationship can be confusing and devastating. Parents, talk to your kids about how to identify any inappropriate advances and ways to handle that kind of situation.
Are Maggie and Milo more alike or different? What do they share, and how would you characterize their relationship?
What role does drinking play in the movie? Are the consequences realistic?
- In theaters: September 12, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: December 16, 2014
- Cast: Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Ty Burrell, Luke Wilson
- Director: Craig Johnson
- Studio: Roadside Attractions
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters
- Run time: 91 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language, some sexuality and drug use
- Last updated: March 13, 2020
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