Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Sisters


I love Tina Fey. I love Amy Poehler. I will watch them in most things, especially if there's the promise of them riffing off one another or collaborating on a gag.  So, I've watched a little too many of the press appearances leading up to the release of Sisters, maybe, and I have to say: I think some of those late night interviews and viral marketing strategies may have been a little slicker than the actual movie. While I certainly laughed during the film, Sisters stands as a reminder that for everything these two women do well: television, screenwriting, essay writing, awards show hosting, etc, deciding which movies to actually star in is neither's strong suit.  I say this though it's often easy to see the appeal of their films and Sisters is no exception.  The film is fun, light, and looks like it was a blast to make.  The decision to cast Fey and Poehler as siblings, too, can be counted as one as inspired as it was inevitable.  They have that sort of familial chemistry, a visible bond that surpasses the fact that they look alike only when gazing upon someone with total disinterest.   
 
Fey plays Kate Ellis, a struggling single mother with a temper and a hard partying past.  Poehler is her sister, Maura, an overly responsible try-hard nursing the wounds of a recent divorce with positive affirmations.  As their parents prepare to sell off their home, the two return to clear out their childhood possessions and throw one last party.  The idea?  Piss off the stuffy new owners and give Maura a chance to cut loose, throwdown, and bag the new neighbor (Ike Barinholtz).  The premise is irresistible with these two ladies at the center, yet as the film gets going it becomes all the more clear that its path is one too simple and direct. This is a party movie willing to settle for easy party jokes. It's basically every high school disaster comedy or frat house bacchanal, but with, you know, some slightly older folks and a big motivational speech about overcoming the tedium of responsible adulthood.   
There are some very funny moments in Sisters, as can be expected when the joke density is as high as the number of comedians in minor supporting roles.  For every joke that lands, however, there's a string that sit awkwardly; you want to laugh and give Fey and Poehler the benefit of the doubt, but you also know the situation is actually just a little more embarrassing than it should be.  There's something not quite right here, as though the film began shooting with a half-baked script and the promise of its stars.  Nothing feels polished, everything needs to cook a little bit longer, and while watching it you're left with the sense that the best material has probably been left on the cutting room floor.  By the end, it establishes itself as the perfect movie for a basic cable rewatch on an idle afternoon: you're not going to seek it out, it doesn't much matter if it's edited down, but it was enjoyable enough to check out again.  In time, you may even come to love it in spite of the fact that you know Fey's character shouldn't have that unnecessary daughter or Ike Barinholtz was a bad choice to cast or that there were so many nostalgia gags that went untapped or we never really needed to go to the retirement community or that it could have used one more sibling or major supporting character who wasn't a would-be villain (Maya Rudolph).  It's that type of movie. Innocuous, amusing, sometimes charming, but ultimately just a little disappointing given the smarts of the people involved. In the meantime, here's what I want for Christmas: a reboot with a slightly darker heart, Bill Hader added to the mix as the girls' spoiled, bisexual baby brother, Amy Schumer as a former neighbor, and the Broad City crew as party crashing, trainwreck cousins.  Make that movie, people. Make that movie.




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