Oh, brother. Love gets complicated.
By Ann Hornaday
Friday, June 15, 2012
In 2009, actress and filmmaker Lynn Shelton made the breakout film “Humpday,” a comedy-drama about two male friends exploring the boundaries of love and sexuality. But in a film that explored those dynamics with exceptional insight and candor, the filmmaker also managed to limn the dynamics of a modern heterosexual marriage, a portrait all the more vivid for being oblique.
In “Your Sister’s Sister,” Shelton’s highly anticipated follow-up, she once again exhibits the tonal control and sensitivity that were on view in “Humpday.” She’s teamed again with “Humpday” co-star Mark Duplass, whose genial, slightly pasty “everyman” quality perfectly suits her relaxed, loose-limbed style. Here he plays a guy named Jack who, as the movie opens, delivers a hostile eulogy at his brother’s funeral. Alarmed, Iris (Emily Blunt), Jack’s best friend and his late brother’s girlfriend, offers him a getaway at her family’s weekend place on an island in Puget Sound. Once Jack arrives, he’s met with the unexpected company of Iris’s half-sister, Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt), whose initial frostiness is melted considerably after a shared bottle of tequila.
That thaw leads to complications that only become more fraught once Iris surprises them with a visit of her own. Filmed on location in less than two weeks, hewing to Shelton’s improvisatory M.O., “Your Sister’s Sister” unfolds with frank, spontaneous ease (save for some only-in-movies contrivance toward the end), taking some fascinating emotional corners and, as in “Humpday,” revealing more in those hairpin turns than on the straightaway. Duplass, Blunt and DeWitt play off each other with the same funny, smart charisma as your funny, smart, charismatic friends in yet another example of making something difficult look utterly off-handed.
Very little is simple in “Your Sister’s Sister” -- not the emotions, the naturalistic tone or the unstudied, easygoing performances. But the film’s pleasures are.
It’s a tribute to Shelton and her cast that they’ve made a film about the difficulties of love, friends and family look so easy.
Contains profanity and sexual content.