Your Sister’s Sister is a gentle romantic comedy, an exploration of grief, and a loving tribute to siblings. Jack, played with genial melancholy by Mark Duplass, is not doing well in the year following his brother Tom’s death, after hitting rock bottom his best friend and Tom’s sometime girlfriend Iris (Emily Blunt, warm and sardonic) prescribes a solitary retreat at her family’s cabin on Puget Sound, there he meets Iris’ half-sister Hannah (a charismatic, prickly Rosemarie DeWitt) licking her wounds after being left by her girlfriend of seven years. The plot that follows wouldn’t be out of place in a modern screwball comedy, but instead of spiraling out of control it is reeled back in with restraint and naturalism.
The movie musical is a strange beast, you can’t linger on the shore, you can’t just dip a toe in, you have to dive in head-first and hope you don’t give yourself a concussion. Reserved detachment is not an option. Now this can be scary, there are a whole lot of bad movie musicals out there (I’m still recovering from the tongue lashing I got from Tom Hooper’s rendition of Les Misérables), but there is also something beautiful about surrendering yourself to a world so completely separate from your day-to-day existence. If the movie musical is a strange beast then the rock opera can be a monster; stringing unrelated songs together to form a narrative usually results in a nostalgic patchwork, doing justice to neither the story nor the source material. But against all odds Across the Universe is something special. Continue reading
I first encountered Swedish director Lukas Moodysson in a review by one of my favorite critics, Anthony Lane of The New Yorker. Lane opened his review of Moodysson’s second film Together with: “Just when I was starting to despair of ever finding a decent movie about life in a Swedish hippie colony in the mid-nineteen-seventies, along comes a perfect example.” For me at 15 this was the zenith of film criticism. I hung the quote on my wall and frequently referenced it, but it wasn’t until I was 20 when my Swedish roommate gave me Together for my birthday that I actually saw the film.
Together displays two of Moodysson’s sharpest skills: a gift for capturing the look and feel of earlier eras, and the ability to get startlingly good performances from child actors, but it is in his delightful 2013 film We Are the Best! that these strengths get the showcase they truly deserve. Based on the graphic novel Never Goodnight by Coco Moodysson (who also happens to be Lukas Moodysson’s wife) We Are the Best! follows the ups and downs of three 13 year-old girls as they start a punk band in 1982 Stockholm. Continue reading
When I was 11 I caught a tantalizing glimpse of Audrey Hepburn in a pink nightie, a dish towel tied incongruously round her waist, bandaging the arm of a “tall, blue-eyed, slim, quite good-looking” man in evening clothes. By the time she applied iodine to her wincing patient with “Don’t be such a baby, it’s only flesh wound,” and he drawled back “Happens to be my flesh,” I was in love with all three of them: Audrey, the tall blue-eyed Peter O’Toole, and the film. Sadly my delight was rather abruptly cut short when the whole thing turned into a Ronald Reagan speech at the White House. The copy of How To Steal a Million my mother, my great aunt (whose son was a presidential speechwriter in the 80s) and I were watching had been poorly taped off of television (the scene we watched is twenty minutes into the film) and then equally poorly taped over. Still my appetite was whetted, I was going to hunt down this film even if I had to go to all the video stores in Berkshire County. Continue reading