' ' Cinema Romantico: Your Sister's Sister

Monday, July 02, 2012

Your Sister's Sister

Lynn Shelton's "Your Sister's Sister" has a truly can't-miss idea. Take two really good actresses - Emily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt - and an actor who while not necessarily versatile can rock it in his wheelhouse - Mark Duplass - and plop them down in a rich man's cabin out in the woods and have them talk - just talk, about relationships and secrets and vegan pancakes and so on and so forth. It's a little like Woody Allen's "September" but set on location as opposed to a soundstage with people who were likely weaned on early 90's indie rock and episodes of "Friends."

It starts well. Jack (Duplass) is at the "commemoratory event" for his brother Tom who passed away one year earlier. His brother used to date his best friend Iris (Blunt). After one friend of Tom's makes a compassionate toast, the tone shifts and Jack decides to tell it like it is. Not that he disliked his brother necessarily but he is trying - however rudely and unsuccessfully - to explain people are complicated and exist primarily in the grey areas.

Iris notes his distinct sadness. In a sweetly played scene she suggests he go to her father's cabin on a secluded island where TV and internet are not available to consider his life, whatever that may mean. He agrees, reluctantly.

The movie gets better. Upon his arrival at the cabin he discovers Hannah (DeWitt), Iris's lesbian sister. She just excised herself from a 7 year relationship. Thus, after getting off on the obligatory wrong foot they take solace in one another's self-inflicted misery, drown tequila and talk. And proving what scholars have known for thousands of years, nothing good ever comes of tequila shots at 3 in the morning because they wind up going to the boudoir.

As she must, Iris arrives the next morning. Jack wants to cover up their brief encounter. Hannah doesn't see the point. But then, upon a revelation by her sister, she does. 'Round and 'round they go.

I have described the majority of the plot, refraining from revealing a "twist" or two, but the plot is merely the jumping off point for these characters to sit around and chit-chat and hash out their thoughts and feelings. This is a film very much of the mold once described so eloquently by the esteemed Roger Ebert as not being so much what it's about as how it's about it.

It is brilliantly acted by the whole trio. Blunt has such effervescence even as she lets us see the entangled emotions lurking just beneath. DeWitt, tougher than the other two, has the most marvelous face throughout that seems to suggest her skepticism with the whole vexing world around her. The looks she gives Duplass the few times he pulls her aside to whisper one thing or another are priceless in their entertained disbelief. And Duplass might be a harried slacker but he's also kind-hearted and well-meaning and easy to root for even as he makes things so complicated for himself. And that is the film's underlying motivation - the way in which human beings inevitably find ways to screw themselves out of what they truly want.

Alas, rather than allowing this situation to resolve itself organically, the film leaves behind its free-flowing conversation to resort to a "Moonstruck"-esque shouting match at a crucial juncture in which all is revealed and everyone becomes upset with everyone else and everyone slips to the depths before climbing back toward the surface.

The end is utterly perplexing. The closing shot is theoretically an open-ending but I think it's actually quite certain, regardless of which way it went after the film faded to black. Can these three really go on existing in such a manner? How would that work? What sort of future obstacles await? Dozens, I assume. There is a moment earlier when Jack tells Iris and Hannah that there should be no whispering behind anyone's back.

But just imagine the whispers that will be going on behind their backs after all is said and done.


Anonymous said...

This looks so good! I had watched the trailer and was hoping to see it at some point, but there haven't been many (if any) showtimes locally. The idea seems a bit different and this film hasn't gotten a lot of coverage. I'd love to see this. Great review, Nick!

Nick Prigge said...

Thanks! It's showing in the city at the Landmark but I would guess that's probably about the only place you'll find it. Thank God for the Landmark. I do love it so.