Tag Archives: Kristen Wiig

The Skeleton Twins (2014)

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A good movie can find humor in tragic circumstances and goodness in extremely flawed characters; “The Skeleton Twins” does both. Twins Milo (Bill Hader) and Maggie (Kristen Wiig) have not spoken for ten years when the near-suicides of both bring them together, for better or worse. Milo is a gay, unemployed aspiring actor still enamored with the former teacher (Ty Burrell) who seduced him when he was fifteen; Maggie is a depressed, unhappily-married dental hygienist who doesn’t love her husband Lance (Luke Wilson.)

Lance is a total sweetheart and I think Maggie is in love with the idea of him (a kind, caring hubby who doesn’t treat her like shit,) but for a sexually frustrated serial adulterer like Maggie,  the idea of true love and the reality of a sparkless relationship isn’t going to cut it. Milo begrudgingly moves in with Maggie and her husband, and exacerbates Maggie’s personal drama, but it is the conflicted relationship between the two siblings, who have been torn apart by the suicide of their dad years before,  that might pull them together or destroy them.

This all sounds like some very heavy crap, and I guess it is, but director Craig Johnson sprinkles some laughs and light-heartedness among the dark drama. Milo and Maggie are extremely sarcastic and acerbic, and yes, they can be grade-A douchebags sometimes, but they end up coming through for each other and are ultimately each loyal to the other one’s needs, whether or not a loved one’s intervention is what the person in crisis was looking for.

The humor leavens the moments where the movie seems like it’s going in the direction of pure familial nastiness (I can go to my Aunt’s house and bring up politics for that.) There’s a definite realism to the proceedings and the filmmaker never tries too hard to get a sniffle or a laugh. I found the acting from everybody, from Milo and Maggie to Lance to even the “Modern Family” guy as a pedophilic schmuck, to be very effective.

Don’t go into “The Skeleton Twins” expecting belly laughs and wild escapades resembling those of Wiig’s breakout hit “Bridesmaids.” If you hadn’t guessed from all the suicide talk. “The Skeleton Twins” is rather low-key and sad. It’s real life, as filtered though the lives of some seriously troubled human beings. It’s love and family and emptiness and the trials of two fuck-ups trying to maintain their own sanity. In the end, all they have is each other. God help them.

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Bridesmaids (2011)

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Admittedly, I’m not really a fan of modern raunchy blockbuster comedies. It’s not a matter of faith or good taste or even sensitivity- so-called laugh-fests starring Seth Rogan or Will Ferrell and particularly directed or produced by a certain Judd Apatow don’t hit my funny bone; frankly, they drive me to ennui and frustration. That’s why it’s such a surprise that “Bridesmaids,” crude and risque and produced by Apatow himself (no Ferrell or Rogan in sight, though) made me laugh. a lot.

This is the film that arguably made star Kristen Wiig’s career. and it’s easy to see why. Although protagonist and anti-heroine Annie doesn’t possess a whole lot of redeeming qualities and behaves like an over-sized, menstrual teenager for most of the movie, Wiig makes her compelling, or at the very least, funny rather than completely infuriating. Which is more than Seth Rogan could do for any of his characters.

However, Annie is not a reprehensible lead, just self-pitying and childish, and she actually does show development by the end of the movie, instead of just waking up and finding her problems solved magically. When depressed, single-ish Annie is chosen to be a bridesmaid for her bestie Lillian (Maya Rudolph)’s wedding, she’s overjoyed, but trouble rears it’s ugly head in the form of Lillian’s overzealous and oh-so-perfect other best friend Helen (Rose Byrne.)

Helen, with her perfect complexion and incredibly fake facade of self-assurance and flawlessness, treads all over Annie’s already flimsy sense of self-esteem and initiates a an ugly competition between the two women. Helen seems to be specifically trying to undermine Annie, and although a flirty, funny cop (Chris O’Dowd) and a free-spirited fellow bridesmaid (Melissa McCarthy) both try to help and support Annie, Annie can’t seem to help and support herself as she makes a manic attempt to win back her best friend.

“Bridesmaids”‘ humor is uncouth, brazen, and incredibly embarrassing, much like it’s main characters. There’s a stoned heroine acting out on a plane, projectile defecation in a bridal shop, and cat-fighting galore, but there seems to be a heart behind the antics. Also, other than Annie’s idiotic and uncaring sex partner (I won’t justify him by calling him a ‘boyfriend’ here) Ted (John Hamm) and also Annie’s weird n’ creepy roommates (British comics Matt Lucas and Rebel Wilson,) there’s really no antagonists, and certainly no downright villainous ones.

Even Helen is inwardly so self-conscious and needy that one has to just feel sorry for her at the end. The use of ignorance and embarrassment rather than nastiness and cruelty (like the similarly themed comedy “Bachelorette”- same world, different planet) as humor makes it awkward and funny rather than mean and ugly (and therefore, unfunny.) All the actors play their parts well, all the characters have value in the script. No one seems overused or underused or unnecessary.

Most of these kinds of comedies are male-centered, so it’s nice to see a movie that focuses on women’s’ sexual desires and frustrations and female friendship. You probably know already if you’re the audience for this movie based on whether you enjoy sex and potty humor. The middle-aged Mormon is probably not going to like this movie. People who like humor that is crude and at times painfully embarrassing probably will. But like me, you might find yourself surprised, especially after being disappointed by this kind of stuff before, to find just how many belly laughs “Bridesmaids” offers.

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