“The Skeleton Twins” makes depression funny (sort of)

Maggie (played by Kristen Wiig) is standing in the bathroom, about to swallow a handful of pills, when suddenly her phone’s Growing Pains theme-song ringtone breaks the silence. The scene is both funny and tragic, yet avoids anything absurd. At five minutes in, the film has already articulated complex emotions more clearly than most films can in 90 minutes.

The call Maggie receives is from the hospital, to let her know that her brother, Milo (Bill Hader, of SNL fame), has also attempted suicide. He then goes to stay with her in their hometown. It’s a small story, but it isn’t any less moving because of it.

Hader gives a great performance, with grace and heart-wrenching sadness. Wiig is also very good here, and the two deserve recognition for their immense, natural chemistry, aided by an excellent screenplay. The stroke of brilliance here is that the filmmakers don’t try to point to one source for Maggie’s and Milo’s depression. Their father is dead and their mother is unloving, but there’s more to it than that. Milo hides his emotions with humor, Maggie hides hers by lashing out. They haven’t spoken in ten years, but they love each other and feel happy around one another.

The ability of the film to show genuine depression while still fitting in moments of happiness makes the film memorable. However, the film is not perfect. Occasionally, a scene or a line will fall desperately out of place. Yet these are trivialities that do not compare to the feeling of wearing a stupid Halloween costume, holding your best friend in your arms, dancing, after spending years thinking you’re alone. In the end, that’s what truly matters.