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'The Other Sister'

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 26, 1999

  Movie Critic

'The Other Sister'
Diane Keaton, left, plays overprotective mother to Juliette Lewis in "The Other Sister." (Touchstone)

Garry Marshall
Juliette Lewis;
Diane Keaton;
Giovanni Rabisi;
Tom Skerritt;
Hector Elizondo
Running Time:
2 hours, 11 minutes
Sexual candor
"The Other Sister," an endearing, sometimes cloying, self-congratulatory crowd-pleaser, follows the sitcomical travails of a mentally disabled young woman (Juliette Lewis) in search of liberty and love. After 10 years in a special school, the adorable, self-confident Carla Tate is raring to take on the world.

Her affluent, protective parents aren't so sure she's ready to make it on her own, but they eventually agree to enroll Carla in a vocational college, where she soon meets Danny (Giovanni Ribisi), a similarly handicapped student with a passion for marching bands. A sweetly awkward courtship follows and, with help from "The Joy of Sex," the couple negotiate the intricacies of physical love.

When Carla and Danny decide to get married, her mother, Elizabeth (Diane Keaton), refuses to go along with the plans. Mother and daughter have been at odds all movie long, but this argument leads to a permanent estrangement. Or does it?

Director Garry Marshall, whose credits include "Pretty Woman" and "Beaches," and his co-writers Bob Brunner and Alexandra Rose, aren't out to create much suspense, nor does reality figure into their calculations. "The Other Sister" is sanctimonious, sanitized fare primarily preoccupied with patting its own back and plucking our heartstrings.

To that end, Carla's overprotective mother becomes the villain of this piece. Why? Because she dares to recognize the truth: Her daughter may want absolute freedom, but she will always have certain limits. Ergo, she is cautious.

Though deftly played by a chilly Keaton, Elizabeth's character is ultimately as unsympathetic as a fairy-tale crone. Tom Skerritt, as sympathetic father, offsets Keaton's churlishness, though he is otherwise wasted.

Both Lewis and Ribisi are Gumpish, warm, verging on cuddly, yet neither performer captures the tentativeness that Larry Drake brought to Benny on "L.A. Law." But then, life is improbably easy for the rich and resourceful heroine, and thus so are her dramatic choices.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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