Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Skeleton Twins (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

The Skeleton Twins

Filmmaker Craig Johnson (True Adolescents) takes us on a novelistic journey that is as rich as a work by Salinger. The film, "The Skeleton Twins" produced by Mark and Jay Duplass, is thrilling, meaningful and provocative in tone.

Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids, SNL) as Maggie is gripped in depression. Just as she is about to take a heap of sleeping pills, she gets a call from the hospital. Her brother Milo (Bill Hader) has attempted suicide.

Maggie steps up although she hasn't seen Milo in ten years.

In a parallel of sorts to "Love Is Strange," Milo moves in with Maggie and her husband: the macho, athletic but likable Lance (Luke Wilson).

Much of the comedy in the beginning centers on the glib sharpness of Milo up against Lance's slow wit. The dialogue  makes for some laugh out loud funny bits with exchanges destined to be classic, reminiscent with  "A Fish Called Wanda."

The movement of the film swerves into seriousness however, when it is revealed that Milo is still emotionally dependent on his male teacher, the lecherous and closeted Rich, (Ty Burrell) who he had sex with in high school. Maggie has her emotional addictions as well, committing adultery several times with various continuing education instructors.

"The Skeleton Twins" is a diverse odyssey in friendship and family love that is nothing short of a roller coaster. Wiig and Hader who worked together on "SNL" know each other well with such looseness and easy verve that they might as well be siblings, if not by blood, then by profession. Their exchanges are simply  authentic.

No one character is cheaply done or played for quick laughs. These people (especially Maggie and Milo) are genuine and made of flesh.

Although quick and brief as with a pastel drawing, we see this sister and brother as colorful grinning goblins that use Halloween as a holiday shield against dysfunction, insecurity and sadness and we grow with them.

The ghost of their father is felt throughout as a "Day of The Dead" laughing skull, although he is masked and only sketchily visible. Indeed, the father's philosophical antidote of joking through pain makes able medicine against a controlling mother's New Age nonsense ( singularly delivered by actress Joanna Gleason) in one of the film's best scenes. It is a point of view that these two have taken to heart and despite the upheavals, at once tense and tittering, it serves them well.

This film succeeds where so many other indie comedies fail; it maintains a perfect tone throughout. No one segment is superfluous or thrown away upon the eye and even the incidental scenes offer a dry and soft-biting wink.

The beginning flashes of Milo and Maggie as children in particular, have a fine delicate hand that recall a Charles Addams cartoon, and a  sweet yearning for some unapologetically black humor.

Though one might well think of immediate laughs, the film is neither a drama or a comedy. More than anything, it is a portrait of a sister and a brother in the midst of their similarities and differences.

"The Skeleton Twins" far outshines most indie films by betraying no confining heaviness or fluffy lightness. As close as possible, (especially given that these two famed comedians, Kristen Wiig and  Bill Hader have such a previously recognizable schtick) this is life.

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