Serious Comedians and Returning Home

The Skeleton Twins felt so familiar.

It was like my first Thanksgiving after starting college. I don’t know if it was the long bus ride or the first precious weeks away from home, but everything seemed a bit off. My parents’ car seemed slightly uncomfortable and once-familiar businesses on the ride home were shuttered or replaced with new storefronts. I even felt like a stranger in my own childhood home! The ceilings felt a little shorter, knicknacks were out of place, and my bed was made! (I never made my bed!)

The feeling is strange. I felt like I didn’t belong there anymore, like I had outgrown it, even though likely nothing had changed at all. After a day or two at home, I started to grow back into my old life – right in time to board my bus back to school.

Since then, I haven’t spent more than a few weeks back at home before returning to Boston. Just enough time to get slightly settled in. After all, if I knew I was going to leave again anyway, why get too attached?

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Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig are primarily known for their comedic work – Saturday Night Live comes to my mind, along with Superbad and Bridesmaids, among others – so it was certainly jarring to see them play relatively serious roles in this movie.

Perhaps this casting was on purpose – Hader and Wiig have become such recognizable and lovable characters, known for their guaranteed laughs, that seeing them in this movie initially felt familiar. I expected them to be goofy and crack jokes, but instead I watched most of it with bated breath, on the verge of tears.

I stumbled upon this movie on Netflix, where it was advertised (falsely, in my opinion) as a comedy. As soon as I watched some of the movie’s opening scenes – Hader settling into a bathtub with a knife in hand, then Wiig standing over a bathroom sink, holding a handful of pills, shaking and staring blankly into the mirror – I was captivated.

Hader’s Milo adjusts to his hometown after nearly 10 years away – as I experienced and described above, the same sights and people are around, but though things may seem familiar on the surface, he quickly learns that much has changed in his absence. Wiig’s Maggie, on the other hand, seemed to be living a comfortable life in their hometown with a loving and, at times, clueless and overeager husband, but her restlessness and uneasiness eventually show through.

Both siblings are deeply affected by their sudden reunion, and watching the intricacies and evolution of their relationship – and each’s relationships to those around them – is emotional. At times, it was even scary to watch their story unfold, unravel, and eventually, helplessly spiral out of control. At the twins’ lowest points, it’s hard not to remember the movie’s opening scenes and, consequently, worry about the characters as if they were your own friends or family.

Netflix’s categorization was not completely wrong, as Hader and Wiig’s quick comebacks and a goofy, almost out-of-place musical number suggest. These lighthearted scenes not only let the comedians’ natural talents and obvious chemistry shine through, but they also help break up the tension of some of the movie’s heaviest moments.

https://vimeo.com/133144989

However, The Skeleton Twins is more drama than comedy, and perhaps more relateable than expected. Sure, the twins’ situations may seem overly dramatized, but I’m sure most people could relate to even one of their emotions – from the shame and helplessness leading up to a suicide attempt to the comfort and friendship of reconnecting with family and everything in between.

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