Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Skeleton Twins

Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader deliver 
great performances in a grim family comedy

     Thinking that The Skeleton Twins would be a comedy was a mistake.  From classic comedic structure, a new order progresses from one that is not a whole lot different. In this
case, a relationship that was very close survives strife and a lot of teasing over twenty years before being more strongly re-established. Plus, there’s a somewhat happy ending.  It’s not a laugh riot, but Bill Hader as Milo and Kristen Wiig as Maggie mine emotional depths that are only hinted at in the screenplay.

     Part of the reason their performances are devastating is because audiences will presume that they’ll suddenly cut away into a funny, superficial reaction.  They had to work like that on SNL to make any type of impression (and overcome generally shoddy writing).  That doesn’t happen here.  Much
Lip Syncing For His Emotional Life
has been made of a scene where siblings Milo and Maggie lip sync (almost literally for their emotional lives, which would make RuPaul proud), but it’s not some campy, chirpy bit.  Instead, in context, it’s about whether she’ll overcome some of their history to connect with him.  

Kristen Wiig with Luke Wilson

     Luke Wilson plays Maggie’s husband Lance as a sincere nice guy, who’s out of his depth and Ty Burrell plays a very ambivalent character that’s nothing like his work on Modern Family.
Ty Burrell
Joanna Gleason registers strongly in one scene as their mother, who is pretty monstrous when their family history is more fully rewound after the movie ends.  Both provide strong support, but this is Hader’s and Wiig’s show.  Though it has the ‘I’ve got a secret’ revelation structure that Scribe introduced in the early 19th century with the ‘well-made play,’ it mixes things up.  The problem for me was that I couldn’t quite get the chronology of what had happened in the siblings’ shared past (they came of age in the ‘90s, but their pop references seemed to be for those from the ‘80s or earlier) and Neil couldn’t understand why they hadn’t spoken for ten years.

Morano's Cinematography
     The cinematography by Reed Morano is clear and gorgeous – realism that’s been kicked up a notch.  It reminded me of some of Laszlo Kovacs’ lighting and palette from Five Easy Pieces (1970).  We’re in an era of some wonderful acting and cinematography.

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