All too often, small-scale indie comedies fall into the “coulda been a contenduh” category. They have great potential to succeed, but like Greek tragic heroes, all have some kind of flaw that prevents them from achievement of their goals.
I’d feel bad beginning my first sentence of a generally positive review with unfortunately because that could give an impression that I thought unfavorably of the movie … but unfortunately, Lynn Shelton’s “Your Sister’s Sister” makes one of the most common indie comedy mistakes: resorting to mainstream conventions. For the first two acts, the movie feels fresh and incisive like a Woody Allen movie from the 1970s.
The humor flows so naturally from Mark Duplass and Rosemarie DeWitt, who play Jack and Hannah, two dilapidated souls seeking comfort in solitude in a quiet lakeside retreat. Neither realize the other will be there, though, resulting in some initial awkwardness (as is the territory these types of movies generally tend to dwell in). Then, they start peeling back the layers of each other’s facades, revealing all sorts of startling truths about each other. And as they start to connect emotionally (as well as become more and more intoxicated), a physical connection just seems to occur naturally.
Then Iris, played by the gorgeous Emily Blunt, arrives … and introduces utter chaos into the house. She is Hannah’s sister and Mark’s best friend, thus rendering their romantic evening a subject unable to be broached. The two new friends, having seen each other laid bare, now have to sort out their true feelings while masquerading as something they aren’t. Shelton lays out some fascinating conditions for which the drama can unfold, but then she rapidly shifts gears.
In the third act, as the characters begin to really grapple with what has gone on, “Your Sister’s Sister” takes the easy way out. It relies on dumb montages and hokey, hyperbolic monologues to get Hannah, Mark, and Iris out of their conundrum. I can’t tell if the ending is just lazy or if it was directed by someone entirely different.
It satisfies, sure, but it doesn’t soar like the rest of the film. Shelton concludes it far too cleanly to be consistent with the tone of the rest of “Your Sister’s Sister.” Let messy people dwell in their messiness. It’s more authentic that way. B /