R (strong language, sexual content); 90 min.
For about 65 minutes, this independent feature is on track to becoming one of the best films of 2012. And then -- without any obvious plot derailment or shift in tone -- the film collapses. The last 20 minutes become a self-indulgent wallow, with long scenes that show the characters either performing rote functions (i.e., riding a bike) or congratulating one another on how warm, wonderful and sensitive they are.
If you want to take a scalpel and autopsy the remains, what you'll find is a fascinating example of what happens when a screenwriter runs out of story. Up to the 65-minute mark, writer-director Lynn Shelton embroils her three protagonists in a nasty tangle of circumstance. But then, after a brisk series of revelations, she untangles her characters, leaving them just the barest and most obvious loose end to be resolved.
Until it goes bad, Your Sister's Sister is a succession of interesting and well-written scenes. Emily Blunt, who is emerging, rather surprisingly, as a warm presence in film, plays a woman who lends her country house to her best friend (Mark Duplass), who is recovering from the death of his brother. She doesn't realize that her lesbian sister (Rosemarie DeWitt) is already there ... and from that little beginning, three lives become uncomfortably entwined.
Shelton's style is not unlike that of the Duplass brothers filmmaking team, something especially noticeable with Mark Duplass in a lead role. But she lacks either the willingness or the instinct to show people's darker sides, which is why she runs out of conflict and story and has to resort to the worst kind of speechifying just to end the movie.
Exclusive: Landmark Magnolia, Dallas
-- Mick LaSalle,
San Francisco Chronicle