'Your Sister's Sister' (R)
Filmmaker Lynn Shelton ("Humpday") stumbles with this well-intentioned but hollow and contrived character study.
In Your Sister’s Sister, Jack (Mark Duplass) loves Iris (Emily Blunt), but he doesn’t tell her, because she used to date his brother Tom, who is now dead. Iris loves Jack too, but she doesn’t tell him, because it would be a little weird.
Iris offers Jack the use of her family’s island vacation home off the Washington coast. No Wi-Fi, no TV, because Jack needs to unplug and get rid of stress and take deep breaths. When he gets there, though, Jack is surprised to find Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt), Iris’ sister, who just got out of a relationship and also decided to spend some time relaxing, away from the rest of the world.
Jack and Hannah have never met. They bond over shots of tequila and talk late into the night. Inevitably, they have sex. And then the next morning, Iris drops by for a surprise visit. Your Sister’s Sister is barely 20 minutes old and already you’re annoyed by the contrivances. Did I mention Hannah is a lesbian? A vegan lesbian? In one scene, she fumes at her sister for sneaking butter into the mashed potatoes. “I love you, but I don’t like you.” Pretty much everyone in the world can relate to that sentiment. But who are these people, and why are we watching them?
Shelton’s previous movie, Humpday, took a preposterous premise — two old friends, both heterosexual, decide to make a gay porn for the sake of art — and turned it into a deft and insightful exploration of the male psyche and how men relate to each other. In Your Sister’s Sister, she wants to dig into a thick tangle of overlapping emotions and hidden feelings using characters who are practically stick figures. The result is that your mind wanders, and you start noticing how the dialogue was improvised, and how “natural” the performances are, and how Duplass, who also directs movies with his brother Jay, seems to have become the busiest actor in Hollywood (he’s also in Safety Not Guaranteed and People Like Us).
You also start glancing at your watch and wonder how 90 minutes could possibly feel this long. After lazing about observing character and behavior for more than an hour, Your Sister’s Sister suddenly unleashes a string of twists and revelations that lead to one of the least believable happy endings I have ever seen. Shelton is an insightful filmmaker who makes small, trenchant movies about real people. This is not one of them.
Cast: Emily Blunt, Rosemarie DeWitt, Mark Duplass.
Writer-director: Lynn Shelton.
Producer: Steven Schardt.
An IFC films release. Running time: 90 minutes. Vulgar language, sexual situations, adult themes. Opens Friday June 22 in Miami-Dade only: Coral Gables Art Cinema.