The Skeleton Twins

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The Skeleton Twins
The Skeleton Twins poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byCraig Johnson
Produced by
Written by
Music byNathan Larson
CinematographyReed Morano
Edited byJennifer Lee
Distributed byRoadside Attractions
Release date
  • January 19, 2014 (2014-01-19) (Sundance)
  • September 12, 2014 (2014-09-12) (United States)
Running time
93 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$1 million[2]
Box office$5.7 million[3]

The Skeleton Twins is a 2014 American comedy-drama film directed by Craig Johnson and starring Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig.[1][4] The film premiered in competition at 2014 Sundance Film Festival on January 18, 2014.[5] It won the Screenwriting Award: U.S. Dramatic at the festival.[6] Wiig and Hader play twins in the film.[7] The film received positive reviews; critics praised Johnson's direction and the performances of Hader and Wiig.


Milo (Hader) writes a suicide note and cuts his wrists. Meanwhile, Maggie (Wiig) is in her bathroom preparing to swallow a handful of pills, but is interrupted by a call from a hospital informing her that her brother – whom she hasn't seen in 10 years – has unsuccessfully attempted suicide. Maggie visits Milo in the hospital in Los Angeles, and suggests that he come to stay with her in their hometown of Nyack, New York for a while; he reluctantly agrees. Milo meets Maggie's gregarious husband Lance (Luke Wilson), who tells Milo he and Maggie are trying to have a baby. This surprises Milo, as Maggie never expressed wanting children. Milo reacquaints himself with the town, and observes Rich (Burrell), a middle-aged man working in a bookstore. Meanwhile, Maggie is taking scuba lessons, and having sex with the instructor, Billy (Holbrook).

At Milo's invitation, their mother (Gleason) makes a surprise visit.

Maggie asks Milo if she'd be a good mother, and Milo honestly replies that she'd be overprotective and uptight, which upsets her; he later apologizes, joking that the reason he said that was his concern about her "morbid obesity." Maggie later confesses to Milo that she's been taking birth control pills, both to avoid having a child with Lance and because she's been sleeping with the instructors of all the classes she's been taking. She worries that she's not worthy to be married to Lance, but Milo reassures her.

Milo meets with Rich, who was his high school English teacher. They had a sexual relationship when Milo was 15. Rich now has a 16-year-old son, and is dating a woman. Milo lies about his career, claiming to have an acting agent in Los Angeles, when he really just waits tables at a tourist restaurant. Milo and Rich spend the night together. Later Milo shows up at Rich's house while his son is there, infuriating him with the danger of his past being exposed. Milo gets drunk, and throws away a trinket that Rich had given him in high school, which he still carried as a keepsake.

Milo tells Maggie about a boy that had once bullied him, who – their father had assured him – would reach his peak in high school and have a miserable adult life. But it turned out that the bully had a successful happy life, and it was Milo who had peaked in high school. Maggie asks for reassurance that he won't kill himself, and he promises to try not to. Maggie and Milo spend Halloween together, and reminisce about their father's death. Milo leaves his phone behind when he goes to the bathroom, and Maggie sees an incoming call from Rich. She is upset with Milo for resuming contact with Rich. Maggie had exposed their sexual relationship, ending Rich's teaching career.

Lance confides to Milo that he is concerned that he may be infertile. Milo mentions that Maggie used to hide cigarettes around the house, planting the idea for Lance to look for medications that might be to blame. Maggie's menstrual period is late, and she considers buying a pregnancy test. She runs into an old classmate with a badly behaved child, which adds to her anxiety about parenting, but she is relieved when she begins menstruating.

Maggie ends the relationship with Billy, and returns home. There she is confronted by Lance, who is painfully confused by the birth control pills he has found. She admits to her affairs, then confronts Milo, blaming him for ruining her marriage. Milo retorts that it was no "marriage" and she lashes back suggesting that next time he tries suicide to do it right. Maggie leaves Milo a voicemail echoing his suicide note, and goes to the pool where she'd been taking scuba lessons. Tying weights to herself, she jumps into the pool. As she begins to drown, she panics but is unable to free herself. Milo, having heard her message, jumps in the pool and rescues her.

The film closes with the twins at Maggie's house, looking at their new fish tank full of goldfish.



The script of the movie went through a few iterations, including one where Milo was a drag queen and the film more closely resembled a road trip movie,[8] but eventually Johnson and his writing partner settled on a more low-key approach inspired by the likes of Hal Ashby and Alexander Payne.[8] Writing the film, Johnson wanted to avoid writing along genre lines as he believes both comedy and drama are present in everyday life.[9] He has described the theme of the movie as "dealing with dark shit with a sense of humor." [9]

One notable scene features the two characters lip syncing to "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" by Starship.[10] Initially the song intended to be used was "Hold On" by Wilson Phillips, however as the song had already played a focal point in Bridesmaids it was decided to choose another song.[10] Accordingly, Johnson "spent 24 hours listening to every cheesy mid-’80s ballad you can think of and looking in the mirror and lip syncing it myself."[10] The fact that "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" is a duet opened up new possibilities with Johnson stating "the scene became a little more epic because it became about Bill’s character getting Maggie (Wiig) to sing Grace Slick’s part".[10]

Principal photography began in November 2012 in Brooklyn, New York.[11] Filming took place over the course of 22 days.[12] Although a full script was written, Johnson encouraged improvisation on the set.[9] Johnson has noted that an entirely improvised conversation between Wiig and Wilson involving Vibram shoes was his single favorite scene in the entire film.[9]


Critical response[edit]

The Skeleton Twins received positive reviews from critics and has a "Certified Fresh" score of 87% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 152 reviews; the average rating is 7.1 out of 10. The site's critical consensus states: "Led by powerful performances from Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, The Skeleton Twins effectively mines laughs and tears from family drama."[13] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 74 out of 100 based on 33 critics indicating "generally favorable reviews".[14]

Box office[edit]

The Skeleton Twins opened in a limited release in the United States in 15 theaters and grossed $380,691; the average take per theater was $25,379, and it ranked #25 at the box office. The widest release for the film was 461 theaters, and it ultimately earned $5,279,678 domestically and $468,848 internationally for a total of $5,748,526, above its estimated budget of $1 million.[3][15]


List of accolades received by The Skeleton Twins
Year Award Category Recipient(s) and Nominee(s) Result
2014 Edinburgh Film Festival Audience Award Craig Johnson Nominated
Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize Craig Johnson Nominated
Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award Mark Heyman and Craig Johnson Won
Gotham Independent Film Awards Best Actor Bill Hader Nominated
National Board of Review Awards Top 10 Independent Films Won
Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards Overlooked Film of The Year Nominated
Women Film Critics Circle Awards Best Comedic Actress Kristen Wiig Nominated
Best Equality of The Sexes Won
Best On-Screen Couple Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig Won
Dublin Film Critics' Circle Best Actress Kristen Wiig Nominated
Indiana Film Journalists Association Best Actress Kristen Wiig Nominated
2015 Critics' Choice Movie Awards Best Actress in a Comedy Kristen Wiig Nominated
Dorian Awards Unsung Film of The Year Nominated
Zurich Film Festival Best International Feature Film Craig Johnson Won
MTV Movie Awards Best Musical Moment Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig Nominated


  1. ^ a b Sneider, Jeff (November 7, 2012). "Kristen Wiig joins Bill Hader in 'Skeleton Twins'". Variety. Retrieved November 27, 2012.
  2. ^ Feinberg, Scott (November 14, 2014). "AFI Fest: Kristen Stewart, Jake Gyllenhaal and 6 Other Oscar Hopefuls on Making Indies". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 29, 2014.
  3. ^ a b "The Skeleton Twins (2014) – Box Office Mojo". Retrieved 25 January 2015.
  4. ^ Trumbore, Dave. "Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader Set to Star in SKELETON TWINS, Luke Wilson to Co-Star". Retrieved November 27, 2012.
  5. ^ "Sundance 2014: U.S. Dramatic Competition". Retrieved April 18, 2014.
  6. ^ "'Whiplash' Owns the 2014 Sundance Film Festival Awards Netting Two Top Prizes". Retrieved April 12, 2014.
  7. ^ The Skeleton Twins Movie Review. September 9, 2014. by Richard Corliss at Time Magazine. Retrieved December 31, 2014
  8. ^ a b Hasan, Zaki. "Interview: Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, and Craig Johnson on The Skeleton Twins". Huffington Post. Retrieved December 17, 2014.
  9. ^ a b c d Gupta, Prachi. ""The Skeleton Twins" director Craig Johnson on comedy, tragedy and Bill Hader". Retrieved 17 December 2014.
  10. ^ a b c d Bahr, Lindsey. "Behind Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader's epic lip sync in 'Skeleton Twins'". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  11. ^ "Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader begin filming 'The Skeleton Twins' in NYC". November 27, 2012. Retrieved November 27, 2012.
  12. ^ Patches, Matt (January 16, 2014). "Sundance Preview: 'Skeleton Twins' Reunites Former 'SNL' Co-stars Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig". The Hollywood Reporter. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved January 18, 2014.
  13. ^ "The Skeleton Twins". Rotten Tomatoes. September 12, 2014. Retrieved November 3, 2014.
  14. ^ "The Skeleton Twins Reviews – Metacritic". Retrieved October 2, 2014.
  15. ^ "The Skeleton Twins (2014) – International Box Office Results – Box Office Mojo". Retrieved January 25, 2015.

External links[edit]