Your Sister’s Sister (IFC Films, R)

film your-sisters-sister_75Hopefully you won’t be bothered by why everyone in the world of movies owns a nice, solitary cabin on an island that can be used as needed, regardless their income.

 

 

 

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Lynn Shelton’s last movie as a writer/director, 2009’s Humpday, had a funny premise: Two straight male friends decide to have sex on camera for an art project. Sadly, that film, while having its moments, didn’t live up to its potential. Shelton’s new film, Your Sister’s Sister, has a dumb premise: A man goes to his best female friend’s cabin, where he stumbles upon her (the friend’s) sister. The man and the sister wind up having sex, and then spend the rest of the movie trying to hide that fact from the friend. Strangely, Your Sister’s Sister is better than it seems like it ought to be; in the end, Humpday and Sister’s Sister are about equally good, but one’s an okay movie that could have been better, and the other one’s an okay movie that could have been worse.

The man, Jack, and his friend, Iris, are played by two recently ubiquitous actors, Mark Duplass and Emily Blunt. So far, in 2012 alone, Duplass has popped up in Darling Companion, Safety Not Guaranteed, and People Like Us, and Blunt has been in Salmon Fishing in the Yemen and The Five-Year Engagement. Iris’ sister, Hannah, is played by Rosemarie DeWitt, who you might recognize from Rachel Getting Married or the first season of Mad Men. (Or because she was in How I Got Lost, which was shot in Kirkwood a few years back.) DeWitt and particularly Blunt are always likeable as actresses, which helps to explain why Your Sister’s Sister works better than it seems like it ought to. As for Duplass, generally speaking I don’t much like him—I thought he was totally insufferable in Safety Not Guaranteed, for example—but he’s good both here and in Humpday, so maybe he should stick to working with Shelton, as she seems the best at bringing out his particular talents.

But wait, back to the plot (such as it is): Iris once dated Jack’s brother, who is now dead. Now Iris is in love with Jack, who is unaware of this fact. Hannah is a lesbian who just ended a seven-year relationship when Jack finds her at the cabin. Their first night in the cabin together, Jack and Hannah have sex. The next day, Iris shows up unannounced.

That’s basically all you need to know. Hopefully you won’t be bothered by why Iris and Hannah are sisters but Iris has an English accent and Hannah an American one; why a lesbian would have sex with a man with little or no provocation (she’s also a vegan, but agrees to eat a steak, again with little or no provocation); or why it seems like everyone in the world of movies owns a nice, solitary cabin on an island that can be used as needed, regardless their income. In fairness, most of those questions are answered within Your Sister’s Sister’s script, but it’s kind of hard to swallow so much of that stuff all at once.

Given the reasonable level of quality amongst the two Shelton films I’ve seen, I’d happily go and see whatever she makes in the future; I feel like her best film is yet to come. For now, if you’re in the mood for a maybe slightly above average-romantic comedy, Your Sister’s Sister might just do the trick, if only on account of its charming cast. | Pete Timmermann

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