Saturday, December 12, 2009

Under 250: My Sister's Keeper

When i told my Dad i was watching this, he informed me that i was a sick individual. "It's one thing," he said, "to be devastated by absurd violence, it's another to watch a movie too close to reality." The notion of watching a fictitious film about people with terminal illness was repellent, to him. Generally, i agree. What's the point of escapism if it gives you a story you're already confronted with in friends and relatives. I don't usually watch tearjerkers. I don't usually see hospital flicks so close to their DVD release date. I have never read a novel by Jodi Picoult, nor do i intend to. I also rarely cry in movies, certainly not the ones i'm supposed to, and feel i should note that i did not cry in this one (though its story is indeed tragic). But i was intrigued by the premise of My Sister's Keeper, and would have watched it on the merits of its cast alone, all of it, and i would say it has its moments.  Anna (Abigail Breslin) is a 13-year old girl who was brought into the world as a designer donor, a warm body to borrow pieces from for her leukemia-ridden older sister Kate (Sofia Vassilieva). Kate is dying. Her kidneys are on the verge of failing and Anna is scheduled to provide a new one against her will. Informed that she will be forever at risk after the operation, and aware that Kate's condition is terminal, Anna hires a lawyer (Alec Baldwin) and sues her distracted mother (Cameron Diaz) for the rights to her own body. The questions raised are interesting ones, and the ethical dilemmas run rampant. This is what saves the film from being a dangerous festival of perversely depressing scenarios. There is an external drama and a very complicated one, something apart from Kate's slow demise, the nose bleeds and chemotherapy. Yet ultimately, while the performances are strong and the story does its best to tell you about something you know in a way you haven't heard, the narrative framework is sloppy. Director Nick Cassavetes (who is about as far from his father as humanly possible) lets his film slip towards the contrived. The set-ups are too perfect and the occasional odd shift in perspective makes for an overall jerky inconsistency. There are too many tangential shifts and weird subplots that take this film away from the thought provoking drama it could be and return it to some trite sob fest demanding multiple tissues and mother/daughter hugs.

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