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Sisters, The
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by Laura Kyle

"Bickering of the highest order."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2005 AUSTIN FILM FESTIVAL: The Sisters is the kind of film, that just four sentences in, you know it’s based on a play. Every member of the ensemble cast spews the most garish, self-realized dialogue; it’s like a bunch of psychologists by day/poets by night got together and argued incessantly with each other. But I suppose that’s what’s so refreshing about it.

Shot in no more than three or four locations really, The Sisters is a soap opera that feels like something right out of a Jane Austen novel almost, placed in modern day New York, the formal, glittering parlance devolving into more of an uncomfortable, forced speech. But it doesn’t take too long before a moviegoer is won over by how downright brilliant and comedic the script (adapted by original playwright Richard Alfieri) is and how intense the characters are…even if it’s quite fantastic. Hey, if I can give logic bending action movies and space adventures a pass, I can certainly give a movie that revels in witty dialogue, one.

An exceptionally talented cast is nothing short of required for a movie such as this. You’re going to need a pretty darned good salesman to buy into these characters and their often histrionic, elaborately verbal way of expressing themselves.

Maria Bello does her take on a slightly less icy 21st century Scarlett O’Hara, playing the supremely jaded, sassy Marcia. Bello is fearless, delivering an immensely entertaining performance. Her sisters are Olga (Mary Stuart Masterson), the eldest and most “serious” daughter, and Irene (Erika Christensen), the overprotected darling of the family, who’s 22nd birthday initiates a gathering between family and friends…and their subsequent head butting. If these people were a car, it’d be crashed on the side of the highway, with all of us slowing down our vehicles to about 40 mph to gawk.

Much of Marcia’s contention is derived from her brother Andrew (Alessandro Nivola), on the account that he’s dating the lower class Nancy (Elizabeth Banks). She’s not nearly as crafty with language as the scholarly family she may marry into someday. I don’t know what I’d do if MY brother fell in love with a girl who didn’t use at least three ginormous words for every third of a sentence. I definitely wouldn’t go to the wedding! I mean, c'mon! (But, to Nancy’s discredit, there are more damning implications as to her character than just that.)

Eric McCormack plays an old friend of Irene’s boyfriend David (Chris O’Donnell), a grumpy, sarcastic commentator of every get-together, who has what must be more than a dozen hilarious, snarky one-liners. And it doesn’t seem at all unusual that he speaks so formally, but that’s probably just because I automatically thought of him as gay Will.

The Sisters really isn’t about sisterhood so much; it’s more of an illumination on the human psyche, as well as a fascinating examination of the power of secrets. The characters are at such an arm’s length (in that they likely don’t act like anyone you or I know) so it’s difficult to get too attached to them, yet they are fully communicated – and not just in the spoken words.

The Sisters is a theatrical melodrama that confronts very real (though not too commonly explored) issues about family relations and it’s almost giddy in its delight with the English language. And who doesn’t like to listen to a good old verbal lashing now and then, anyways?

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originally posted: 10/25/05 14:58:25
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Tribeca Film Festival For more in the 2005 Tribeca Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Austin Film Festival For more in the 2005 Austin Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

8/26/06 Elizabeth S Feels "stagey", but very engrossing. Great dialogue. 4 stars
6/11/06 Sandide Absolutely delicious dialogue! 4 stars
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  14-Apr-2006 (R)
  DVD: 13-Jun-2006



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