Monday, June 25, 2012

Your Sister's Sister

Note to self: Don't pay full price for a movie at Landmark Kendall Square when you don't have to. $11, man. With membership discount, I could have seen this at the Coolidge for $6.75. Heck, I'd forgotten my book of discount tickets which would have brought the price down to $7.75, and for the first time really realized that they are a serious discount. This is what you get for choosing the place and time of the movie you see by

But, anyway, I liked this quite a bit. I'd liked both of Lynn Shelton's previous two movies, and looking at my reviews of them, I find it interesting that what struck me about the past two is that they were very much about relationships between guys. This one's got the same sort of small, tight cast, but it's much more about sisters than any other relationship. Emily Blunt and Rosemary DeWitt, in particular, are really great together (which is not a knock on Duplass, though it can't help but sound like one with a three-person cast); DeWitt is someone I kind of expect it from, whereas Emily Blunt... Well, I've tended to think of her more as kind of pretty than much of an actress. She fills roles well enough, but never really bowled me over. I really like her here, in large part because she doesn't try and bowl me over; where DeWitt and Duplass are sort of playing up their characters' turmoil, she makes Iris very real but not exaggerated at all.

As good as her performance is, though, I have to admit, I did occasionally wonder what the deal with her accent was. I almost suspect that you can tell which scenes were shot first because it sounds like she's trying to make her character American and not really doing a great job of it. Thus, a scene that lays out an awkwardly convoluted scenario that tries very hard to explain how the pair are both close and close in age despite clearly growing up on different continents. Not as flagrant as Rachel Lee Cook not being able to do an English accent in Blow Dry, but it sure seemed like a bit of a patch.

Doesn't hurt the movie at all, though. Well worth a look.

Oh, and I see Mark Duplass has another movie coming out this Friday, though in a supporting role this time, and one as a writer/director coming fairly soon, too. Guy's been busy.

Your Sister's Sister

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 24 June 2012 in Landmark Kendall Square #6 (first-run, 35mm)

Your Sister's Sister is Lynn Shelton's new movie, and if you've been following her career, the shape of it likely won't surprise you much: It's three people in an increasingly tangled set of relationships fueled by improvised dialogue. Her previous successes have bought her a higher-profile cast for a somewhat bigger production. She's improving with practice, and was pretty good to begin with.

She starts us off with Jack (Mark Duplass), still reeling from his brother Tom's death a year earlier. His best friend Iris (Emily Blunt) - who was also Tom's ex-girlfriend - suggests he go to her family's island cabin to get his head straight. When he gets there, though, he finds Iris's sister Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt), who has just left her girlfriend of seven years and has much the same idea. Drinking happens, and when Iris shows up the next morning, things suddenly become very complicated.

It sounds like damning with faint praise to say, but Shelton has a real knack for taking a situation comedy premise and wringing an intriguing story out of it. Her previous film, Humpday (also starring Duplass), worked along those lines, and this one has a wry take on the structure at least twice: Early on, when Hannah recognizes that there's no really strong reason to keep something secret, forcing Shelton and her cast to put a little effort into a contrivance that many films would take for granted; and later, when a pivotal moment of dramatic upheaval is staged as farce. It's not so much subversive as it is playing to the genre's strengths - a good sitcom works via empathy - and this lets the movie be funny and serious without every tipping too far toward screwball or melodrama.

Full review at EFC.

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