"Lingering on the edge of brilliance..."
Having delved into the world of writing and directing with recent features such as the magnificent Cyrus and Jeff, Who Lives at Home - Mark Duplass has returned to performing, taking on the starring role of Jack in Lynn Shelton's indie rom-com Your Sister's Sister.
Following the death of his brother, Jack is searching for alternatives, desperate to get away and clear his head from the harsh realities of life. His best friend Iris (Emily Blunt) offers her family retreat, in the form of an isolated house in the country. However, despite taking Iris up on her offer, seeking a peaceful break away, Jack is confronted with Iris' sister Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt) who is also staying at the cottage.
Following a drunken night on tequila - Jack and Hannah sleep with one another, in an event that they both regret enormously the following morning. Having recently broken up with her girlfriend, Hannah is more casual about the night, whereas Jack is concerned about Iris finding out - which he has every cause to be, as her surprise visit the following day sparks a host of revealing secrets to make for rather a tense few days, as the three attempt to stay in the house together, and try to get along.
Your Sister's Sister bears an intriguingly simplistic premise, of just three people living together in an almost love triangle. With three talented performers this should work but unfortunately for Shelton the picture is simply too flat. When there is a minimal setting and only a mere handful of characters, the feature relies on the narrative and dialogue to create a steady flow and thus make up for the lack of cinematic scope. Yet the dialogue isn't sharp enough, lacking in pace and wit, unable to generate a strong flow, unlike Carnage for example, which manages to deviate away from the settings claustrophobia with acute, pacey dialogue.
Rather than revel in the picture's minimalism, Shelton combines the conservative nature of the film with overstated nonsense, struggling to find a compatible middle ground between the two - something that Jeff, Who Lives at Home excels in, for example. The picture peaks when it becomes more dramatic, becoming almost soap opera-ish. Yet what transpires is a terribly cringe-worthy sequence where all three leads wallow in their own puddles of self-pity and sorrow. Urgh.
However, where Your Sister’s Sister comes into its element is within its naturalistic edge, mostly evident within the dialogue. Much of the film feels almost ad-libbed, a real testament to the performances from the leads for making this even seem a possibility. There are some genuinely endearing moments, and at points the film can be very funny - mostly thanks to Duplass.
In fact, all three lead roles are impressive, and you can't really fault any of them in that respect. However faults can be found within the characters which they are portraying, as all three are rather annoying in their own way. One assumes this is a deliberate move by Shelton, yet in order to fully connect with a film you need to like at least one character – to feel that you can relate to somebody, and share their experience. The problem is that none of the characters are strong enough and the film is screaming out for a fourth person to enter the fray and shake things up a little.
I can't help but feel that Your Sister's Sister is on the verge of being a great movie, lingering on the edge of brilliance - but it almost comes across as being too cautious in its approach, shying away from innovation and failing to live up to its own potential success. In this respect it feels somewhat unfulfilling, and as a film is sadly quite forgettable. Following Duplass' wonderful directing roles recently alongside his brother Jay, it would appear that the talented film maker is probably better off behind the camera, rather than in front of it.