Sunday, 2 September 2012
FILM REVIEW: YOUR SISTER'S SISTER
Lynn Shelton's previous film, Humpday, was a funny and smart take on the bromance genre: a look at male machismo, the inherent homoeroticism and the lengths men will go to to save face. In Your Sister's Sister, Shelton focusses her gaze on the female of the species, more specifically, the relationship between sisters Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt) and Iris (Emily Blunt), and the man who comes between them.
That would be Jack (Mark Duplass), who is still mourning the death of his brother, Tom, 12 months ago. Iris, Tom's former girlfriend, thinks his getting away from it all – precipitated by an outburst at a memorial for Tom by the dead brother's friends – will be the best thing for Jack. And he agrees, taking up her invitation to spend a week at her family's island cottage off the coast of Washington State.
Jack isn't expecting company during his retreat, but is happy for it when he discovers Hannah (in her underwear) also occupying the cottage. The pair have never met but know of each other through Iris, and any wariness is soon dissipated as the pair indulge in a lot of whiskey and some midnight confessionals: he's grieving; she's just ended a seven-year relationship with a woman.
It also leads to some awkward bedroom antics, made even more awkward when Iris arrives unannounced early the next day. Iris is ecstatic to see her big sister, and happy that the two most important people in her life have finally met; Jack, however, is not-so happy for Iris to find out what happened last night, given that he is secretly in love with her.
This places Hannah uncomfortably in the middle, a position made even more uncomfortable when her own secret is revealed.
Rosemarie DeWitt has seemingly made a career out of playing the sister – from the titular bride in Rachel Getting Married, opposite Anne Hathaway, to the arguably sane sibling of Toni Collette's Tara in TV's The United States Of – and by making an impression in supporting roles; second-in-command but never second best.
And in Your Sister's Sister, DeWitt is again the sister but finally lands a lead role: equal billing (and footing) with her co-stars, Blunt and Duplass. Her Hannah is the most complex of the three characters, and DeWitt makes her nuanced, by turns prickly and empathetic.
Blunt, always a welcome presence, is good, too, as is Mark Duplass who has, by some strange turn of events become the most unlikely romantic lead of cinema 2012. With Sister, and the soon-to-be-released Safety Not Guaranteed, the affably charming but by no means “Hollywood handsome” actor (who also directs his own films with his brother, Jay), gives a wonderfully comic turn.
Depending on your take, Your Sister's Sister is either a drama with laughs or vice versa. Shelton isn't heavy handed with either – there's no hand wringing when things come to a head, and the closest thing to a comic set piece involves vegan pancakes – but what she and her actors achieve (no doubt partly as a result of their improvising) is an authenticity in the relationships.
Not only do we like Hannah, Iris and Jack (in spite of their obvious faults), but we care about them and what happens to them. And even if their ultimate fate is left up in the air thanks to a cliffhanger ending of sorts, one gets the feeling that the kids will be alright.