Suicide can be a tricky thing.
You want to perform the act quickly and (hopefully) without pain. But the deeper question behind such a drastic act is motive.
For most of the The Skeleton Twins, the absorbing indie drama from writer/director Craig Johnson, the main characters are unable to crack that mystery.
In fact, answers of all kinds seem to elude siblings Milo (Bill Hader) and Maggie (Kristen Wiig). After a botched suicide attempt, Milo moves from Los Angeles to live with Maggie in New York. Maggie herself was about to attempt suicide before learning about Milo.
The siblings, whose father had killed himself, used to be close, but have not spoken to each other in 10 years. Milo is a failed actor struggling to find love and an agent.
“I’m that guy who peaked in high school,” he complains.
Maggie is not doing much better. Though she’s married to kind Lance (Luke Wilson), Maggie works out her demons by sleeping with other men, including her scuba-diving instructor.
There is much to like in The Skeleton Twins. Johnson’s screenplay offers an honest look at estranged familial relationships, in which right or wrong is largely irrelevant.
Hader and Wiig give rich, nuanced performances that reflect the chemistry the two actors honed together from their years on Saturday Night Live.
Yet The Skeleton Twins suffers from a glaring deficit: Suicide is ever-present throughout the film, yet Johnson never seriously examines it. Granted, the act of ending your own life is inherently illogical, but in Johnson’s film suicide serves not as meaningful vehicle to explore human fragility but to rather cheaply establish the movie’s premise.
That’s too bad. Hader and Wiig imbue their flawed characters with so much empathy that despite the upbeat ending, you still leave the theater feeling shortchanged.
Cast: Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Ty Burrell, Luke Wilson, Joanna Gleason, Boyd Holbrook.
Director: Craig Johnson.
Screenplay: Mark Heyman, Craig Johnson.
A Roadside Attractions release. Running time: 93 minutes. Language, some sexuality and drug use. Miami: Coral Gables Art Cinema, Regal South Beach 18, AMC Aventura Mall 24. Fort Lauderdale: Gateway 4.