Craig Johnson / USA / 2013 / 91 mins
The Reaper looms large in Craig Johnson’s melancholic but lightly-handled tragicomedy The Skeleton Twins. It sees the mini-rebirth of Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig as serious actors who play damaged brother/sister Maggie and Milo. Each with a penchant for failed suicide attempts, Milo’s latest reunites the pair after ten years of estrangement, allowing them to take joy in their joint life failures. Maggie a desperate housewife and serial adulterer, Milo a failed gay actor (“the typical gay cliché”), the siblings have only each other to psychoanalyse and lament their messed-up childhoods with.
The reconnecting of Hader and Wiig from their alliance on Saturday Night Live is gloriously nostalgic and refreshing in Johnson’s film. Theirs is an honest, exuberant chemistry that feels utterly natural, allowing for scenes of free-flowing laughs as they dance on the sofa to 80s music and get high on nitrous-oxide in Maggie’s dentist surgery. Johnson gets the balance between minor and major keys bang-on at times, though it’s hard for the film to wriggle free from the platitudes of rom-com. The temptation to let Hader and Wiig run riot with their comedy is clear, but Johnson curbs it with nous. As a result, it’s worth looking past the cutesiness of their new roles and revelling in the moments of light and dark in this finely-tuned comedy.