Movie a Day Blog was not initially a fan of Bill Hader’s. I saw occupying a very narrow comedy corridor of meek geekness, without much range.
Several films have now proven me wrong, the latest being THE SKELETON TWINS (2014, Netflix Streaming), which I finally caught up with after missing its brief theatrical run.
Along with Kristen Wiig, Hader helps turns an essentially plot-less movie (typical mumblecore: characters in search of life’s purpose, not to mention its meaning) into compelling viewing.
Craig Johnson, the writer-director, has only one previous feature to his credit (TRUE ADOLESCENTS, 2009), another Duplass Brothers production, as is SKELETON TWINS.
This does not prevent him from distilling an oddball brother and sister duo into something surprising and even bracing.
Hader’s 30 something Milo is still trying to come to terms with the reality of adulthood and his homosexual status within it. He still treats sex as a furtive pleasure, and is very much in touch with the immature aspects of his personality. That’s an understatement.
Wiig, too, is trapped in something of her own making, a relationship with a very good Luke Wilson that’s about to get more serious and deeper if that’s what she really wants. Like her brother, she seems to possess a congenital weakness for poor decision making.
The source of their problem becomes clear when their New Age mother Joanna Gleason drops in for a painfully brief visit; she’s more like a realtor than a Mom, and suddenly everything clicks into focus for our emotional understanding of Wiig and Hader’s complex relationship.
Mumblecore movies don’t require much plot, they’re more experiential and willing to go down rabbit holes if that’s where the characters lead them. I would have difficulty recapping what actually happened in SKELETON TWINS, but that’s irrelevant given how enjoyable the journey was.
Wiig has turned out to be a dramatic as well as comedic actress of surprising depth — her expressive face can communicate volumes of hopelessness. She also plays very well against Wilson, who reminds us that of the two Wilson brothers, he actually may be the more talented.
But it was Hader who dominates SKELETON TWINS and gives what to my mind is his first tour-de-farce performance. Milo can be irritating, exasperating, funny as hell and gay bitchy, but he is never boring, and Hader keeps his foot on the pedal for the movie’s entire running time.
Johnson seems to have more interesting movies ahead of him, and he can do well by studying the Duplass Brothers’ arc of success. It has everything to do with staying true to certain story and character values, and not selling out the characters by using bigger casting.
There’s always a need for good indie comedies. I’m eager to see what Craig Johnson comes up with next.