We’re all a little Jerry Springer

I wrote this when the movie was new – about 7/9/2012. Oopsies.

Your Sister’s Sister is now playing at The Grand Cinema in Downtown Tacoma.

Here’s the scenario: A guy is home alone with his best friend’s sister, the two of them end up having carnal relations, and the whole thing blows-up when the best friend/other sister finds out. Now, would you have watched this on:

A: Daytime television? Or,

B: High-quality independent cinema?

You friggin cheats! You already knew this is a movie review! You saw it’s a discussion of the new release, Your Sister’s Sister. You would have chosen, ‘A’ if you weren’t so “Look at me. I’m soooo smart.  I can observe stuff.”

Whatever. The point is, we tend to classify anything that has sensational scandal and drama as low-brow and trashy. Though we must not forget that Macbeth and The Twelfth Night of Shakespeare are really just Maury Povich and Days of Our Lives in a different vernacular.

That said, You’re Sister’s Sister does involve the fore-mentioned love triangle scenario, and to good effect too. Instead of a talk show set, the movie takes place in a family cabin in the alternatingly serene and moody forests of the Pacific Northwest. Jack, played by the rising filmmaker and acting star, Mark Duplass, is told by his best friend, Iris (Emily Blunt) to visit her family’s empty cabin in order to achieve revitalization through some old-fashioned mountain solitude. Not too raunchy.

But wait, Iris’s sister Hannah, played very-hottily by Rosemarie DeWitt, is already at the cabin! And she’s just broken-up with her partner of several years!

Now you jerks already know what happens next because you couldn’t just play-along for what would have been an exciting quiz. It’s fine. Before that though, writer/director Lynn Shelton leads up to the inevitable with a great scene montage where Jack and Hannah begin getting to know each other and drown their sorrows using the best of social lubricants, tequila. You know what’s destined to happen next – they’re gonna hump.

It’s here that Shelton makes one of her more adept screenwriting decisions and continues onto this scene in a tone of hyper-realism. Their advance toward the “magic moment” becomes both playful and awkward. There’s a lot of humor and tenderness in seeing the two attractive co-stars bumble their way toward a largely uninspiring result. This very human depiction of passion is also very refreshing and a unique thing in cinema.

I promise I haven’t spoiled anything, that’s only the first twenty minutes of the movie. This movie is actually more about the repercussions of an affair where the bonds of family and friendship are ruptured. The artistic and narrative handling of this is pretty good overall though not without some pretensions. For example, at one point there’s a sobbing apology made by Jack that is either made melodramatic by the written dialogue of the scene, or Duplass is simply incapable of crying authentically on screen. I can’t decide. But later we’re treated to a bruising man vs. bike wrestling match. Yep, you read that correctly. Here Duplass shows the kind of virile frustration and convincing sorrow that WWF Smackdown has been trying to get right for decades.

All three characters look toward the remaining bulk of the movie with tumult in their hearts. Shelton develops their personas well enough that the viewer naturally comes to grasp what each of them needs to figure out about themselves just as they’re going through hell to do it. I think here is where the art of drama like this distinguishes itself from the daytime talk-show. Like with Shakespeare and other more-literary fiascos, this movie explores the hearts and minds of characters as they learn lessons as they struggle with internal demons or the cruelty of the real world. Conversely, Jerry Springer capitalizes on the predictable explosiveness of freshly revealed deceits.

I promise I haven’t yet spoiled the movie and I don’t intend to. I will say that Your Sister’s Sister did reward me (It’s hilarious when I say it that way! Sorry) with a resonating story that also offers up a challenge to traditional domestic relationships. The contemporariness of its conclusion left me reflecting deeply about alternative ways of viewing love and relationships, both romantic and familial.

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