My Sister's Sister

© 2012 Ray Wong

You know it's a small, personal, intimate project when you see the sole writer is also the sole director. Such is Lynn Shelton's Your Sister's Sister, an indie drama that centers entirely on three people at a cabin.

Jack (Mark Duplass) is an unemployed drifter. His best friend is Iris (Emily Blunt), who is also Jack's brother's girlfriend. Was. Jack's brother Tom died a year ago. While Tom's friends all revere him, Jack has a different take -- he thinks his brother was a prick and none of their friends know Tom the way Jack did. Except Iris, of course.

Jack is still struggling with Tom's death and his own aimless life, so Iris invites him to stay at her family island cabin for the weekend to "sort things out." Upon his arrival, Jack bumps into Hannah (Rosmarie DeWitt), Iris's older sister who happens to need to "sort things out" at the cabin as well. One thing leads to another, and Jack ends up having a brief sexual encounter with Hannah, even though she is a lesbian.

The next morning, Iris shows up at the cabin unannounced. Jack tries desperately to hide the truth from Iris, and that leads Hannah to suspects that Jack is secretly in love with Iris. Then Iris drops the bomb with her sister: Iris, too, is secretly in love with Jack. Hannah agrees to keep the secret to herself. What Jack and Iris don't know, however, is that Hannah has a secret of her own!

Ever since she broke out with The Devil Wears Prada, Emily Blunt (The Five-Year Engagement) has been busy. Except for The Young Victoria, for which she received an Oscar nomination, she hasn't really found the same standout roles yet. As Iris, Blunt is playing it safe again. Don't get me wrong. She is lovely and there is nothing wrong with her heartfelt performance. It's just that it's within her comfort zone -- she is playing the same character she's played in her last few projects.

Actor-writer Mark Duplass (People Like Us) is quickly becoming a name in Hollywood, particularly in the indie circle. Duplass has a very relaxed, natural acting style, which may, too, typecast him as the lovable Joe Average. Again, nothing wrong with that, if it makes him one of the busiest working actors in the business. I really like Duplass's performance, and would like to see what he can do outside of his comfort zone.

By comparison, Rosemarie DeWitt (The Odd Life of Timothy Green) seems more versatile. Her Hannah is lovely and graceful and charming, of course, but there's also this cold and calculated person lurking underneath all that niceness. Her character is by far the most complicated of the three and DeWitt does a fine job with it. It helps, too, that she and Ms. Blunt have great chemistry together -- one can really believe that they are actual sisters.

Written and directed by Lynn Shelton (Humpday), the screenplay has an incredibly intimate feel to it. Three characters, one location, and a whole lot of conflicting emotions and secrets. I think Shelton has done a good job setting the story up and establishing the characters and their relationships. Still, part of me is bothered by the familiarity and contrivance of the situations and circumstances. I understand that it's a personal drama, and not really plot-driven. Still, the story and plot are rather predictable.

Much of the dialogue seems to be improvised as well, which is a nice touch. I like how the actors are so comfortable playing their respective characters -- they seem to really know the characters inside and out, and the dialogue seems genuine and real. Their chemistry with one another is also good, especially between DeWitt and Blunt. The ending is a bit schmaltzy, however.

Stars: Emily Blunt, Mark Duplass, Rosmarie DeWitt, Mike Birbiglia
Director: Lynn Shelton
Writer: Lynn Shelton
Distributor: IFC Films
MPAA Rating:  R for language, sexual content
Running Time: 90 minutes 

Script - 6
Performance - 8
Direction - 7
Cinematography - 7
Music/Sound - 7
Editing - 7
Production - 7
Total - 7.0 out of 10.0 

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