Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Your Sister's Sister is really good despite a somewhat weak ending

It's fitting that Mark Duplass would star in Lynn Shelton's new film "Your Sister's Sister." They've worked together before, but it fits for me because the two of them are on a very short list of "reasons why I'm thankful for mumblecore." The other two being Mark's brother and Greta Gerwig. The only things that have ever been seriously wrong about mumblecore have been the camera aesthetics and the often-tiresome meandering characters that populate the films. Other than that, there's nothing wrong with films that are down-to-earth and are just trying to explore human relationships. In fact, we could use more films like that... as long as the filmmakers can learn how to hold the camera properly and give some more purpose to their characters.

Lynn Shelton and the Duplass Brothers have been the standouts of that sub-genre because they know how to write characters and they come up with interesting-enough scenarios for those characters to explore. The filmmakers, lately, have also been gradually entering more mature waters, using more recognizable actors in the process. With "Your Sister's Sister," shot on a $125,000 budget and co-starring Emily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt, Lynn Shelton is really starting to show that she might be the most talented filmmaker of them all. 

The film is about three 30-somethings: Jack (Duplass), Iris (Blunt), and Hannah (DeWitt). Jack has been stuck in a rut ever since his brother died a year ago, his best friend Iris wants to help him out of that rut. So she invites him to stay at her father's isolated cabin which is located on an island off Washington state (and it's gorgeous-looking) so that he can unwind and have some time for himself. He takes her advice and bikes his way over there, but when arrives, discovers that Iris's sister Hannah is also at the cabin.

Though an initially awkward situation, Hannah and Jack manage to get along and they start having a few drinks. Hannah just ended a seven-year relationship with a woman. Add that with Jack's issues, and you have two people drowning their sorrows over a couple of drinks. The drinks start to multiply and eventually they get drunk enough to talk of the possibility of the two of them having sex. Their ensuing relations inevitably causes problems when Iris unexpectedly shows up the next day.

Lynn Shelton does a great job of spacing this premise out and letting the characters really get into the nuances of the situation. We soon discover that the trio have much, much bigger problems than any of them could initially imagine and it just escalates from there. Unfortunately, once the film hits its climax, it doesn't seem to know where to go from there. As a result, we get a rather extended montage sequence and what feels like a forced resolution. Shelton really put these characters in quite a trying situation which made for some great drama, but she didn't really seem to know where to go after that.

Part of this could be because, in Shelton's films, the dialogue is completely improvised. With a slightly tighter and more prepared structure, this could've been a great drama. I mean, it's very easy to care about all three characters. They're played by very likable actors and their problems are both trying and relatable. It's because the characters are so likable and well-played by the three leads that I'm somewhat willing to forgive the last 10-15 minutes.

Nevertheless, this is still a really good film and I definitely recommend fans of indie film to give this a viewing. Lynn Shelton has really grown as a filmmaker since "Humpday" and has proven she can bring out some really strong performances from established actors. It'll be interesting to see where she goes from here. Mark Duplass also impressed me with his performance. This is a man who can not only make good movies, but he's also growing as an actor. The two of them, along with the always-adorable Emily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt who has proven multiple times to be a very strong actress who deserves more leading roles----they all help to make "Your Sister's Sister" one of this summer's most refreshing films.

Grade: B+

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