Given that The Skeleton Twins stars Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, and Luke Wilson, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that the film must be a gut-busting comedy. But the first 10 minutes will prove you wrong — Wiig’s character Maggie is about to attempt suicide when she’s interrupted by a phone call from a Los Angeles hospital telling her that her twin brother Milo (Hader) has just survived his own suicide attempt. The siblings haven’t spoken in 10 years, but sensing they both need a fresh start, Maggie invites Milo to move back to their small, New York hometown where she now lives with her insufferably upbeat husband, Lance (Wilson). There are certainly moments of comedy in the film — an after-hours laughing gas party the twins have at Maggie’s dental office is a standout — but at its heart, this is a dark family drama exploring issues of mental illness, suicidal depression, and the aftermath of sexual abuse.
Director Craig Johnson slowly reveals the darkness underlying the twins’ estrangement, giving glimpses of a shared history that only grows more tangled with each revelation. Telling much more would spoil the story, but Modern Family’s Ty Burrell deserves praise for his complex supporting role as Milo’s former high school English teacher. And Wiig and Hader, often relegated to ensemble work post SNL, prove they’re each more than able to carry a movie in their own right. If you’re a fan of either, definitely see The Skeleton Twins — but bring some tissues. You’ll need them. —Erika W. Smith