Saturday, August 25, 2012

Your Sister's Sister (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway
Your Sister's Sister

Here's a film that will please Indie fans, coffee-shop visitors, and even Woody Allen devotees. "Your Sister's Sister" tells the story of one blasé, shiftless but well-intentioned Jack (played by the esteemed "Jeff, Who Lives at Home" director Mark Duplass) who is large, rubbery and appears to go where the winds blow. Jack is likable and self-effacing but he also has a bit of defensiveness and arrogance, a curious mixture of Zen and anger due to the death of his brother.

Coerced by his vivacious friend Iris (Emily Blunt) to take a meditative break, Jack goes to a remote cabin in Washington State owned by Iris' family. The tranquil cabin is not so tranquil, occupied by Iris' sister, the hyper and opinionated Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt). One night, Hannah is drunk and depressed as she recently ended a long romance with her girlfriend. On impulse, Hannah decides to sleep with Jack and chaos ensues.

I won't spill the beans, but things get more and more confusing and madcap. But not so madcap as to be unreal.

Lynn Shelton's oeuvre is the exploration of the everyday and the organically comic situations that can arise from common interactions. As the director of the quirky "Humpday", Shelton allows characters to express themselves in an almost generic fashion. She has the analysis  of Woody Allen, without his snappy Bob Hope-like one liners and the offbeat feet of a Todd Solondz without his bleak and biting humor. Every role retains a wonderful humanness with an authentic quantity of non-hyperbolic anxiety. 

No one actor overshadows the others. And Mark Duplass, for his part, is a master in making the unambitious sloppy Jack a charismatic leading man.
The film has one fine scene in particular in which Jack and Hannah are in bed and instead of a smooth and motion-filled amorous adventure, it proves a halting and embarrassing caprice. The best stories never shy away from moments that are either passive or unflattering.

We get the feeling that Shelton's camera is completely composed of a fusion of digital light and green tea leaves. Or that she might just sketch the briefest plot outline on a coffee-stained napkin. Even the camera doesn't move all that much. This is simply the back and forth of life between three people who are hopeful but alone.

And, although some might see the abrupt uncertainty at the end of the film as a contrivance, I see it as an Indie  calling card or trademark on par with an appearance of Bill Murray in a Wes Anderson film, or a Hitchcock cameo. 

"Your Sister's Sister" is an intimate sip of cinematic espresso that deserves its rightful place among the canonized films of The Duplass Brothers and Noah Baumbach.

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