The Skeleton Twins

September 22, 2014 at 5:13 pm | Posted in 2014 | Leave a comment
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◊ ◊ ◊ ½

Dramedy is a much used descriptor these days for movies and TV shows. It’s an ill defined term that creates a pretty large field, from “Ally McBeal” to “Shameless.” So, I’m not sure how to narrow down the flavor of Dramedy present in “The Skeleton Twins.” It is definitely funny, laugh-out-loud funny in parts, and there is more humor than I expected. And there is a dark, bleak vein running straight through its middle. That darkness shades every single joke and plays around the edges of every single interaction, creeping more and more across the narrative until there is little room for laughter by the end. This is difficult stuff (suicide, emotional emptiness, betrayals, broken trust) and it is not dealt with tritely. There are some difficult, complicated scenes to watch, where brother and sister are genuinely angry at each other and you’re not entirely sure how you feel about what either one of them has done. The film’s willingness to stay in these uncomfortable moments without rescuing the audience is admirable. Though the real take away here is the two fine performances from our leads.  Kristen Wiig (“Bridesmaids”) and Bill Hader (“Superbad”) are both primarily known for their 9 years on “Saturday Night Live” and are hardly who I would have thought of as dramatic actors. Yet, both of them play their characters with depth and vulnerability. Likewise, Ty Burrell (“Modern Family”) really shines in a very difficult role, bringing humanity to a character that could have easily been a stereotype. The film does let me down a bit at the end. After a powerfully climactic showdown between siblings, the final scenes feel a bit simplistic and predictable. And the film wraps up neatly a few minutes later. It felt as though writer/director Craig Johnson didn’t know where to take it after the big explosions and so just put a bow on it and tucked it away. As I said, I’m not sure how to describe Dramedy here. I laughed again and again and I was made uncomfortable again and again. A less conventional ending really would have put this film over the top. Still, though, a worthwhile addition to the genre and I will definitely be keeping an eye on what these actors do next.

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