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17 June 2012

Sister Act

The tagline of Lynn Shelton's new movie Your Sister's Sister reads, "a comedy about doing the right thing with the wrong person," which makes me wonder whether that was really the best they could come up with. Although the film is definitely witty and has a lot of funny lines and funny moments, I wouldn't really describe it as a comedy. Dramedy, maybe, if that weren't such an awful word. I'm not entirely sure I agree with the second half of the description either, as you will say. Misleading posters notwithstanding, I quite enjoyed Your Sister's Sister (which I keep accidentally calling My Sister's Keeper and My Sister's Sister; the title doesn't make a huge amount of sense either).

The brother of Jack (Mark Duplass) died over a year ago and Jack has been in a lonely place ever since so his best buddy Iris (Emily Blunt) sends him off to her family's cottage on a small island off the coast of Washington state so that he can chill in an-internet and TV-free zone and then return with a renewed vigour for life, or something. Iris used to go out with Jack's brother and later dumped him; more recently, she has started to have feelings for Jack but hasn't been brave enough to tell him yet. When Jack turns up at the cottage late at night, he is surprised to find it occupied by a semi-naked woman. After a minor confrontation with an oar, he realises it is Iris's older sister Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt), who, it transpires, has been hiding out there since breaking up with her partner of seven years. Unable to sleep, exhausted and drunk, they end up sleeping together, despite the fact that Hannah is a lesbian and Jack "[doesn't] have boobs."

And guess who's coming to breakfast! Yes, that's right: Iris decided to surprise Jack and shows up early the following morning with a load of supplies. Hannah doesn't want to lie to her sister but when Iris reveals her feelings for Jack, she decides that what Iris doesn't know probably won't hurt her. Except that this is the movies, and so of course Iris founds out. In fact, a whole load of other shit hits the fan; as Imogen Heap sang, "It's complicated / This time I think it could be / Triangulated."

The script, much of which was improvised, was as I said funny, but it was also sharp and sweet, without being overly maudlin. The issues that come up--death, life, love, families, and so on--are pretty heavy-going, which is why I maintain that it is somewhat misleading to call Your Sister's Sister a comedy. The three lead actors all put in strong performances, which is lucky because almost all of the action takes place in and around the cottage, with very little interaction with anyone else. I was initially confused by Blunt's accent--I couldn't tell if she was doing a really poor American accent or she was in fact Hannah's half-British half-sister and had one of those annoying transatlantic accents that becomes more American as the person becomes more emotional. The latter is, I think, correct, although I would have expected Iris to have more of an American accent. Linguistic pedantry aside, Shelton has put together a tightly plotted, emotional character study of three lost souls in search of salvation. Your Sister's Sister is a little clich├ęd in places, but the superior acting makes it stand out from the other movies of its ilk.

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