Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Review of "My Sister's Keeper"

Some children are conceived out of love, some out of wild irresponsibility, and still others out of some combination of the two; Anna Fitzgerald (Abigail Breslin: “Little Miss Sunshine”) was neither; she was conceived by design to be a medical resource for her older sister, Kate (Sofia Vassilieva: “Medium”). Kate is dying of Leukemia.

From birth, Anna has been harvested for various materials to help Kate, but when, at the age of 11, she is faced with altering her life forever by giving up a kidney, she hires attorney Campbell Alexander (Alec Baldwin: “30 Rock”) to put a stop to it. A decision that could cost her not only her sister's life, but her family.

Based on the novel by Jodi Picoult, “My Sister's Keeper” is not really a movie about a courtroom battle for Anna's medical emancipation; in fact the court battle is more of a frame for the real story. At its heart, this is a movie about life, death, love, and family; it somewhat transcends being a tear-jerking “chick flick”, and goes on to be hardcore award bait. I will not be at all surprised to see some acting nominations for the movie's stellar performances, if not for it's less than stellar writing.

The best thing about this movie is easily the acting; Breslin in particular is phenomenal at playing a girl mature beyond her years due to the trauma of her upbringing, but acknowledgments must be made to the other stars of the film. Cameron Diaz, while a bit young for the role (she has two high school age kids, and is supposed to be old enough to have been a successful lawyer before Kate got sick) does a great job at displaying the range of emotion this movie demands. It is a big departure from “Shrek” and “Charlie's Angels” movies for her, and may open up a whole new range of roles for her.

This film is not without it's problems; the whole thing feels compressed and shallow, as if it should have had another twenty or thirty minutes to flesh the story out better. It's as you are looking out a window at a beautiful scene only to find that it's not a window at all, just a very well done two dimensional painting.

The story skips back and forth in time showing us scenes from the lives of the characters frequently without any sort of context or time frame. About the only way you can judge what order some things happen in is how much hair Kate has, as the other characters remain unchanged. In one sequence another character shaves their head so that Kate will not feel so self-conscious in public, however this character's hair is never shown to even be short in any other scenes despite the fact that some must take place shortly after the shaving scene.

The character that seems to suffer the worst from the movie's lack of real depth is Jesse (Evan Ellingson: “CSI Miami”). Not only do his parents seem to forget about him, the filmmakers seem to have as well. He's almost a part of the scenery in a lot of the movie, and the only time that really is dedicated to him seems to try and skirt around the fact that he's on a bad path. The bad path he is on is only shown as him hanging out in a seedy part of Hollywood, but what he is doing there is never explained, and only seems to be a set-up for one scene that is both a little funny and a little sad, but completely glossed over; lacking any sort of impact that it should have had, and ultimately being unnecessary. If not for the role he plays in the film's climax, Jesse could have been completely written out (as at least one semi-major character was) of the entire story.

This is not a great movie, but the acting in it does save it from being a bad one. It is perfect counter programming for “Transformers”, and like “Transformers” it is not a movie you should give a lot of thought to after you see it. The movie is full on inconsistencies, unanswered questions, and scenes that relate to nothing other than themselves. It's a shame really, because with a little more effort, and a little better writing this could have been a fantastic movie.

If you want something girly to see while the guys and geeks are watching the robots, and you want to cry in public, then this is the movie for you. If you're not in the mood to cry this weekend, then you will not miss out on any part of the experience by waiting for this film to hit DVD.

“My Sister's Keeper” opens in theaters nationwide on Friday, June 26th. Be sure to bring your hanky.

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