Movie review: 'Sister' visits a cabin full of messy intrigue

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Iris (Emily Blunt) thinks she's sending her grieving best friend, Jack (Mark Duplass), off to a Puget Sound cabin for some solitude and "head space."

Little does she know that she's dispatching him into an emotional tornado and she and her older half-sister, Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt), will be joining him. Their heads and hearts will spin with secrets, confessions, resentments, duplicity and, in two cases, lots and lots of tequila in "Your Sister's Sister."

'Your Sister's Sister'

3 stars = Good
Ratings explained
  • Starring: Emily Blunt, Rosemarie DeWitt, Mark Duplass.
  • Rating: R for language and some sexual content.

After Jack makes an uncomfortable scene at a party marking the one-year death of his brother, Iris (who once dated the man who died) quietly takes him aside. "You gotta stop. You know that, right? ... You're a mess."

She suggests he get his bicycle out of mothballs and take the ferry to her father's remote cabin, where he can be alone with his thoughts. He and she don't realize that Iris' half-sister has already retreated to the house to nurse her broken heart after splitting with her longtime girlfriend.

After drowning their respective sorrows in tequila, Jack says, "If I were differently equipped or you were differently inclined, this night might go a very different way." It turns out Hannah is open to his suggestion, a detail she and Jack fail to share with Iris when she unexpectedly arrives the next morning.

"How nice is this?" an unsuspecting Iris chirps. "You were supposed to have alone time, and now it's like a double whammy."

Double whammy indeed in Lynn Shelton's comedy, shot in 10 days and partially improvised by its cast. That lends an immediacy and unpredictability to some of the scenes, allowing the audience to feel as if it is eavesdropping or that the actors don't even know what their co-stars are about to say.

One of the best involves Jack's description of Iris' revolving boyfriends outfitted in skinny jeans, rocker stud belt, Converse shoes with no socks and "swoopy" haircut. Each has a short shelf life and will be gone in a matter of days.

Ms. Shelton ("Humpday") gave the cast a 70-page script with some dialogue and a few sketched-out scenes but says, "vast swaths of the film are completely improvised." The baton then is passed to moviegoers, who can decide what happens after the open-ended final scene, which could go one of two ways.

"Your Sister's Sister," with its beyond-complicated sibling relationships and rivalries, benefits from three equally accomplished leads in Mr. Duplass (also on screen in "Safety Not Guaranteed" and "People Like Us"), Ms. Blunt and Ms. DeWitt.

The women look as if they could be half-sisters, and Ms. Blunt gets to explain away her natural British accent. Ms. DeWitt most recently was in Pittsburgh filming "Promised Land," and Ms. Blunt was here visiting her husband, "Promised Land" actor, producer and co-writer John Krasinski.

This is an intimate story, with whispered conversations, stony silences and revelations that are blurted out accidentally or angrily and on purpose. Either way, a secret is followed with this chaser, "I am a really bad person."

Or, perhaps, just a wounded, messed up one who might find support and sympathy in unlikely places and people.

"Your Sister's Sister" opens Friday at the Harris Theater.


Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: or 412-263-1632. Read her blog:


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