(US); 1999; Rated PG-13; 130 Minutes
Juliette Lewis: Carla Tate
Diane Keaton: Elizabeth Tate
Tom Skerrit: Radley
Giovanni Ribisi: Daniel
Produced by David Hoberman, Alexandra Rose, Ellen
H. Schwartz, Jonathan B. Schwartz and Michael Stipe; Directed
by Garry Marshall; Screenwritten by Alexandra
Rose, Blair Richwood, Garry Marshall and Bob Brunner
by DAVID KEYES
is a moment in Garry Marshall's "The Other Sister" where
two mentally disabled characters get together to study the
physical positions outlined in a book called "The Joy Of
Sex." They examine each page carefully, pointing out the
certain positions that "look pretty good," and the ones
that don't. Smiles come across their faces, and then frowns.
Suddenly, the woman turns to the boy and asks him, "How
much do you weigh?" That scene, of course, has been played
over and over again in television ads for the film's campaign,
but it's one of the best moments in the film, and I'm a
little disappointed that the filmmakers chose to reveal
it beforehand. But then again, this is showbusiness: if
trailers don't spoil the surprises, the critics do.
Other Sister" is an awkwardly entertaining film; it's poignant
and funny, yet manipulative in the way it provokes emotion.
This is what we critics call a 'weepie,' in which the sentimental
values are contrived and even unconvincing. Critics have
no problem rejecting these types of films (a la "Patch Adams"),
and they certainly didn't hold back on Marshall's movie,
calling it "shameless," "moronic," and yes, even "offensive
to the mentally handicapped." Maybe so. Maybe not. I'm not
really sure how to feel about any of this. But what I'm
sure of are the performances of our beloved actors Giovanni
Ribisi and Juliette Lewis, and they are masterful, difficult,
and convincing. As was the case with "Stepmom," the film
works narrowly because of the acting; to call the portrayals
of these two worthy of Oscar contention is an understatement.
Yet, to call the film an enemy of emotional devastation
Lewis is Carla, a mentally handicapped young woman who returns
home from boarding school at the beginning of the picture.
Her mother, Elizabeth, is an overprotective radical who
is worried about Carla's decisions, while her father, Radley,
is more calm and open-minded about his daughter's choices.
When she decides that she wants an apartment, Radley is
willing to help, but Elizabeth is naive and stubborn.
Keaton has had her share of dimwitted and incompetent roles,
but this one ices the cake. Half the time, she can't make
up her mind on whether she wants to be happy for her daughter,
or concerned, or even enraged. Her emotions change directions
like the wind, and are irritating, distracting, and even
at points grotesque. You should see how more often they
change once her daughter falls in love.
love. What a beautiful thing it is. And yet what an inconvenience.
Ribisi and Lewis do indeed have excellent chemistry, but
their dialogue sometimes distracts attention from that interaction.
One must admit that even the words sound like they've been
taken straight from a classroom of first graders. I sat
there for a few minutes and wondered, or for that matter,
felt concerned, about the treatment of their dialogue, and
whether or not the critics were true in calling it shameless.
But then, not surprisingly for a Garry Marshall project,
there's usually a sudden action in the chemistry, which
permits you to soon forget all about the words. Perhaps
that's why I'm not completely sure about whether or not
the movie is offensive.
emotions here are directly composed of obvious situations
that are almost like a checklist of events to determine
how the film's impact will resolve. First, you have the
situation (Carla's mother's overprotectiveness), a swelling
of the emotional walls, their outbursts, and of course,
the predicted resolution. Once the love story sets in, Carla's
mother becomes so extreme that times she brings her daughter
to tears. Meanwhile, Daniel professes his love for her,
which in turn brings her to even more moving tears. "I love
you more than band," the music-loving guy proclaims, being
afraid to lose his girlfriend. There were a couple of moments
that I felt like choking up, but once remembering my critical
position, I snapped out of the trance.
as those elements annoyed me, I still must give the film
credit for having a few effective scenes. When the characters
aren't being brought to tears, or being forced into tear
jerking situations, or even being distracted by the dialogue,
what you have is an effective movie that both are funny
and charming. Maybe that will be enough to get a viewer's
mind off of the ludicrous brainwashing. Too bad critics
couldn't do the same.
1999, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
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