[Review] – Your Sister’s Sister

26 Jun

Title: Your Sister’s Sister
Year: 2012
Director: Lynn Shelton
Writer: Lynn Shelton
Starring: Emily Blunt, Rosemarie DeWitt, Mark Duplass
MPAA Rating: R, language and some sexual content
Runtime: 91 min
IMDb Rating: 6.3
Rotten Tomatoes: 83%
Metacritic: 71

I’ve long been saying that 2012 is going to be the year to really catapult Mark Duplass to a much wider audience, what I didn’t really expect, at least not to this level is that he’d be involved in so many truly great pieces of work; by the time I finished watching Your Sister’s Sister, I realized the man was involved in three of the ten best films I have seen so far this year, which is a pretty neat thing.

He wrote and directed, with his brother Jay, the great Jeff, Who Lives at Home (which I gave an A- to), starred in Colin Trevorrow‘s exquisite Safety Not Guaranteed (an A), and now he has this one, which is another great one. Granted, he also was in Darling Companion, which I gave a C to, but the role he had in that movie wasn’t really that substantial, and all these great hits more than make up for that miss. Add all of that to the fact that he also has a supporting role in People Like Us, Alex Kurtzman‘s directing debut which premieres this weekend, and in Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow‘s hugely-anticipated follow-up to The Hurt Locker, and you can see why 2012 is turning out to be a banner year for Mr. Duplass, and that’s great because the results have been truly amazing.

Anyways, the film at hand now is Your Sister’s Sister, written and directed by Lynn Shelton, who, of course, is best known for writing and directing the 2009 film Humpday, which is totally terrific and also stars Mr. Duplass. Humpday is seen as part of the mumblecore filmmaking movement, much like most of the movies Mr. Duplass and his brother make as directors themselves. But it seems like now Ms. Shelton is taking a page from Mr. Duplass, who, as a director, has now steered towards more studio-friendly fare in his past two movies, Cyrus and Jeff, Who Lives at Home. Your Sister’s Sister is a much more conventional film than Humpday, but it’s still a truly incredible one, a little gem of a movie that I can’t recommend enough.

Another sign that Ms. Shelton is kind of veering towards more traditional filmmaking territory (after having directed episodes of both Mad Men and New Girl between her last film and this one), is the fact that this one counts with much better known faces in its cast. Joining Mark Duplass are the equally ridiculously talented duo of Emily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt. Together the three of them deliver one of the best acted films of the year.

The film focusses on a very unique love triangle of sorts. You see, Mr. Duplass’ character, Jack, just lost his brother and is having a pretty harsh time coping emotionally. So what happens then is that his best friend, Iris, played by Ms. Blunt, gives him the keys to her family’s remote vacation cabin, so that he can have some time to himself and deal with the mourning. So he agrees, but to his surprise once he arrives at the cabin he finds Iris’ sister, Hannah, the character Ms. DeWitt plays, who’s there for a similar reason, getting over the abrupt end of a long and serious relationship she was in. They find solace in each other, start shooting tequila, and eventually have sex. Only to find the next morning that Iris has decided to show up, and you know both sisters are going to start developing feelings for the same guy.

This all, of course, could have very easily fallen into the many rom-com trappings that are clearly laid out here, but trust me when I tell you it does the very opposite of that. This is a film that’s seriously engaging, that doesn’t toy with the situation it presents but rather treats it as a really complex one, and we get a really human dramedy with a tremendous amount of heart. And that has everything to do with the actors and Ms. Shelton. The trio of performers are absolutely aces, navigating perfectly through the funny and the deeply emotional scenes, all of them delivering truly honest performances; and the writing and direction by Ms. Shelton are just super smart and sensitive, it shows that she knows and cares about these characters.

I just love films like this, that are super small-scale, just brilliant observed, full of charm and exquisite performances. It’s a film that has twists and turns here and there, guided by secrets being revealed and such, but that’s always grounded by the most human of emotions, and apparently quite a bit of the dialogue here was improvised, Ms. Shelton not letting go of her mumblecore roots, and it works because these three actors have such palpable and effortless energy that it’s hard not to be deeply engaged by everything that transpires here.

That sense of improvisation, by the way, not only adds in the way that the performances feel absolutely real, but also in how natural the situations feel. By the actors not having the luxury of all the words they have to say being clever and already in their heads, the film adopts a much more real-life rhythm in how these exchanges work, and that works wonders in a film like this one. These are all very gifted actors with precise timing, that obviously helps of course, and they have a great skill at saying everything that a scene needs and never once making it feel as though they said because the scene needed it to move forward; it’s kind of voyeuristic in a way, like we’re watching all these very intimate moments that don’t feel like a movie at all.

I really loved this film. I loved seeing Ms. Shelton figure out what Mr. Duplass and his brother figured out with Cyrus, that that naturalism they had been so fond of in their past works can actually blend in perfectly with a film that has bigger names, is more tightly structured and looks great. It helps that she had such a fine group of actors to share the creative process, of course, because each of them just shine here. Ms. Dewitt is just astounding to watch in a performance that’s much more impulsive than anything she’s done before; Ms. Blunt, who’s also having a busy year having appeared in Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (a B-), The Five-Year Engagement (a B+), this one and Rian Johnson‘s upcoming Looper, is charming as always; and Mr. Duplass is proving that he has real screen presence, and has made for an unconventional yet truly terrific romantic interest in two films this year now.

Some people will, I would imagine, have problems with the final act of this movie. It’s what prevents me from giving this one an even higher grade, I’ll admit to that, but the fact remains that, nevertheless, by the time that twist happens we’ll already have invested a lot in these characters and in the relationships they have with each other, so, at least for me, that iffy bit was easy to overlook. This is a film you really should try to watch, the kind that in the unconventional way it was made it found what it needed to be truly unique, working at the highest of levels because of the creative forces behind it.

Grade: A-

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2 Responses to “[Review] – Your Sister’s Sister”

  1. cigarettesandmovies June 29, 2012 at 6:35 am #

    I’m looking forward to seeing this over the weekend, I hope it’s as good as you say.

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