Monday, 19 December 2016

Sisters (2015)



I'm actually quite surprised to see that Sisters garnered some mixed reviews, because I really enjoyed this and felt it to be an improvement on Tina Fey and Amy Poehler's previous offering, Baby Mama.

Fey and Poehler plays sisters Kate and Maura Ellis. Reaching middle age they have begun to feel anxious and insecure about their lives, a situation that is exacerbated when their parents (Dianne Wiest and James Brolin) announce that they are selling the family home where they grew up, and moving to a retirement apartment to enjoy their retirement and an easier, more sedate lifestyle. Fearing they are about to lose their last real connection to their youth and a sense of independence and freedom that existed before the compromises of adult life which chipped away at their true spirit, the siblings are utterly horrified and immediately regress back to their petulant juvenile selves as a reaction to their parents plans. Forced to clean out the fabulous clutter of an '80s childhood in their shrine-like bedrooms, Kate and Maura resolve to throw one last big party for their high school clique, all of whom seem similarly adrift on life's choppy waters, in a bid to send off their previous lives with one last fitting hurrah.


On the surface Kate and Maura are complete opposites - the former is the party animal who drifts from job to job in the hair and beauty trade with disastrous consequences. She's also a single mom to teenage daughter Hayley (Madison Davenport) who is actually more mature than her mother. Maura meanwhile is a nurse and well intentioned do-gooder who sacrificed much of the wild teenage years her sister enjoyed to be the non-drinking, non-drug-taking 'designated mom' of the pair's infamous 'Ellis Island' parties. What's really interesting is that Fey and Poehler are playing the opposite of their roles in Baby Mama, with Fey playing the wild and reckless, ultra-confident Kate and Poehler taking the role of the straighter, community-minded Maura. It takes a moment to adjust to this casting-against-type, but actually as the film develops you realise the differences are only superficial and that each sister shares a common loneliness and fear of where the future may take them.


Written by SNL regular Paula Pell, who took inspiration from her own teenage diaries and also has a cameo in the film, Sisters is directed by Pitch Perfect's Jason Moore and, like that film, it is a crowd-pleasing comedy that isn't stingy with laughs or spectacle, even if not all of them find the target - a common failing of the needlessly profane gag-jenga these films consider their stock in trade. As the 'Ellis Island' party takes hold and a gaggle of middle aged people throw caution to the wind and grab a hold of the freewheeling innocent youth they once possessed, mass comic carnage ensues - ceilings cave in, paint is poured into the pool's filter system and someone, inevitably, paints a massive cock on the wall. The biggest laugh stems from a chintzy Für Elise playing, revolving ballerina music box - a staple of many a teenage girl's bedroom in the 1980s - and its unfortunate 'meeting' with Maura's romantic interest played by Ike Barinholtz, but there's a wealth of humour to be found in the identifiable nostalgia, the sibling rivalry and the old feuds between schoolmates.


All the while, Fey and Poehler deliver a comic masterclass, making something that was previously - and ludicrously - considered impossible (the female dynamic in mainstream Hollywood comedy) look utterly effortless. Their timing, and the sheer unabashed joy they clearly have for both the material and performing together is completely infectious...at least it is to me.

And it was great to see John Leguizamo play the hot high school bad boy who has gotten so bad down the years that he has now 'weathered...like underpass weathered'

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