Dysfunctional family: check. Gay character “bravely” portrayed by a straight actor: check. Grainy slo-mo flashbacks set to precious music: check. Sundance accolades mentioned in the trailer: check. On paper, The Skeleton Twins has all the trappings of a desperate-to-get-critical-attention indie flick. And in some sense, maybe that’s a fair description. It didn’t offer a particularly fresh perspective, and it hit more than its fair share of predictable beats.
I could argue about why it was better than its clichés: the topic of depression is treated with way more depth than as an offbeat character quirk, the script has a real point of view, and it’s not afraid to take some surprising risks coughTyBurrellcough. But it doesn’t really matter to me. Sometimes (see: Smashed) a movie sells its leads so well that I can ignore its flaws and just enjoy the ride, and Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig deserve all the praise they’re getting for this movie. Their characters are fully-formed — especially Hader, despite my worries that he’d be played as a stereotype — and their (sibling) chemistry is really terrific. In the wrong hands the film would have felt trite and self-aware, but they make the dark feel genuine and the warm-and-fuzzies feel earned. So here’s another gift to the guy on iTunes who called me way-too-pretentious. I really liked this one.